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ANCIENT 
COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



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Digitized by the Internet Archive 

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http://archive.org/details/ancientcofferscuOOroef 



\NCIENT COFFERS 



AND 



CUPBOARDS 



THEIR HISTORY AND DESCRIPTION 



FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES TO THE 
MIDDLE OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY 



BY 



FRED ROE 




WITH TWO COLOURED AND NUMEROUS OTHER ILLUSTRATIONS 
BY THE AUTHOR 



METHUEN & CO. 
36 ESSEX STREET W.C. 



LONDON 
1902 









< 4 



PREFACE 



IT is easy enough to commence a work of this description, the difficulty is to 
leave off. Fresh specimens crop up as the work progresses, and valuable as 
every additional type is, the stern necessities of time and space which forced 
Stothard to eliminate the two earliest brasses in England from his book 
on Monumental Effigies, compel one to at length desist. The subject, however, is 
not the study of a few weeks or months, but one which requires continual exercise 
of observation and comparison. The compilation of the present volume has been 
a labour of love extending over a space of seven years, which, lightly commenced, 
gave no indication of the amount of work required. 

A humorous side is not wanting to the difficulties which have necessarily appeared. 
The series of fraudulent rascalities which culminated in what is known as the Shipway 
Case has not facilitated investigation in country churches. More than once have the 
researches connected with this work been regarded with evident suspicion. Curiously 
enough, also, a burglary was effected, and an attempt made to break into one of the 
chests which had been sketched but a short time previously. In some cases the 
drawings were regarded in quite a different light to that which they were intended. 
The illustration representing the elaborate linen panel at Rye House was mistaken 
by a Philistine for a collection of golf sticks. 

As regards the history of even our best-authenticated pieces the details are 
disappointingly meagre. The historical digression in Chapter V. refers only to mere 
surmise, of which no actual proof exists, though the conjecture is not at all improbable. 

Much kindness has been shown to the author during the course of this work, and 
his sincerest thanks are due to those who have allowed sketches and examinations to 
be made, and to others who have as kindly come forward with information. 

104, Priory Road, 
West Hampstead, N.W. 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER I. 



INTRODUCTORY 



PAGE 
I 



CHAPTER II 



THE DARK AGES 



CHAPTER III. 
THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY 



15 



CHAPTER IV. 
THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY 



• 36 



CHAPTER V. 



TILTING COFFERS 



5i 



CHAPTER VI. 
THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY 



70 



CHAPTER VII. 
THE FIRST HALF OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY 



97 



CHAPTER VIII. 



THE LINEN PANEL 



. 112 



CHAPTER IX. 



PLAIN COFFERS 



. 120 



NOTES 



126 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



FULL PAGE 

PAINTED COFFER FORMERLY IN THE COURT OF CHANCERY, DURHAM . . Frontispiece 
THIRTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER, BOUND WITH IRON SCROLL-WORK, IN VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM Page 3 

ANGLO-SAXON CASKET OF WHALE'S BONE IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM . . ,, 7 

ARMOIRE AT AUBAZINE, CORREZE, FRANCE . . . . . . ,, II 

COFFER BOUND WITH IRON SCROLL-WORK, IN BRAMPTON CHURCH, NORTHAMPTONSHIRE. Face page 14 

THIRTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN CLIMPING CHURCH, SUSSEX . . . ,, ,, 15 

LATE THIRTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN THE AUTHOR'S COLLECTION . . . Page 1 7 

THIRTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN GRAVENEY CHURCH, KENT . . . . ,, 21 

THIRTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN STOKE D'ABERNON CHURCH, SURREY . . . „ 24 

PAINTED COFFER IN NEWPORT CHURCH, ESSEX ..... Face page 26 

LATE THIRTEENTH -CENTURY COFFER IN THE MUSEE DE CLUNY, PARIS . . . Page 27 

THIRTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN THE MUSEE DE CLUNY, PARIS . . . Face page 29 

PAINTED ARMOIRE IN THE CATHEDRAL OF NOYON, FRANCE . . . Page 3 1 

COFFER IN SALTWOOD CHURCH, KENT. DATE ABOUT I3OO A.D. . . . . „ 34 

FOURTEENTH - CENTURY COFFER, KNOWN AS THE "JEWEL CHEST," IN ST. MARY MAGDALENE'S 

CHURCH, OXFORD . . . . . . • • »> 37 

FOURTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN HACONBY CHURCH, LINCOLNSHIRE . . Face page 39 

FOURTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN DERSINGHAM CHURCH, NORFOLK . . . » » 39 

LATE FOURTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN BRANCEPETH CHURCH, NORTHUMBERLAND . „ ,, 39 

FOURTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN FAVERSHAM CHURCH, KENT . . . Page 4 1 

FOURTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN HUTTOFT CHURCH, LINCOLNSHIRE . . Face page 43 

FOURTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN CHEVINGTON CHURCH, SUFFOLK . . . Page 45 

COFFER IN WILNE CHURCH, DERBYSHIRE ..... Face page 47 

COFFER IN ST. PETER'S CHURCH, DERBY • . . . „ „ 47 

EARLY PERPENDICULAR COFFRET IN THE AUTHOR'S COLLECTION . . . Page 49 
FOURTEENTH -CENTURY PANEL FROM KNIGHTLY COFFER IN THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM, 

south Kensington ...... Face page 51 

KNIGHTLY COFFER OF LATE FOURTEENTH-CENTURY WORK IN YORK MINSTER . . . Page 53 

EARLY FIFTEENTH-CENTURY TILTING COFFER IN HARTY CHURCH, KENT . . • »» 57 

TILTING COFFRET FROM THE PEYRE COLLECTION . . • • » 6l 

TILTING COFFER IN THE MUSEE DE CLUNY, PARIS . . . >» 65 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



EARLY FIFTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER PANEL IN THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM . Face page "]0 

LATE FIFTEENTH-CENTURY CABINET IN THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM . . „ „ 7 2 

FIFTEENTH-CENTURY GERMAN CHEST FROM NUREMBERG, IN THE AUTHOR'S COLLECTION . Page 73 

FIFTEENTH-CENTURY FLAMBOYANT COFFER FRONT IN THE MUSEE DE TROYES . . Face page 75 

LATE FIFTEENTH-CENTURY FLEMISH CHEST FRONT IN THE AUTHOR'S COLLECTION . . Page 77 

FIFTEENTH-CENTURY CUPBOARD IN THE MUSEE DE TROYES . . . Face page 79 

PANELLING BEARING ST. ANDREW'S CROSS . . . . • » » 79 

"FLANDERS CHEST " IN SOUTHWOLD CHURCH, SUFFOLK. END OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY . Page 81 
FIFTEENTH-CENTURY ARMOIRE IN THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM . . Face page 84 

FIFTEENTH-CENTURY FLEMISH CUPBOARD IN MINEHEAD CHURCH, SOMERSETSHIRE . Pages 86, 87 

FIFTEENTH-CENTURY ARMOIRE IN YORK MINSTER ..... Page 89 

EARLY SIXTEENTH-CENTURY CABINET DOORS IN THE POSSESSION OF SEYMOUR LUCAS, ESQ., R.A. Face page 9 I 
FIFTEENTH-CENTURY FRENCH CHEST IN THE COLLECTION OF THE HON. MR. JUSTICE EADY . Page 93 

FIFTEENTH-CENTURY CUPBOARD, KNOWN AS " SUDBURY'S HUTCH," IN LOUTH CHURCH, LINCOLNSHIRE „ 95 
COURT CUPBOARD. TEMPUS HENRY VIII. IN THE POSSESSION OF SIR C. LAWES - WITTEWRONGE, 

bart. ........ Face page 97 

LATE GOTHIC CUPBOARD, PIERCED WITH TRACERY, IN THE POSSESSION OF MORGAN WILLIAMS, ESQ. Page 99 
TWO CARVED PORTRAIT PANELS IN COURT CUPBOARD. TEMPUS HENRY VIII. (a) 
TWO CARVED PORTRAIT PANELS IN COURT CUPBOARD. TEMPUS HENRY VIII. (b) 

late gothic almery in the collection of morgan williams, esq. 

gothic credence in the musee de cluny, paris 

sixteenth-century almery in coity church, glamorganshire . 

early sixteenth-century credence in the collection of edward barry, esq 

cupboard, temp. henry viii., in the collection of edward barry, esq. 

sixteenth-century " flanders chest " in east dereham church, norfolk 

sixteenth-century cupboard in the possession of morgan williams, esq. 

silksted's coffer in shanklin church, isle of wight 

early sixteenth-century linen-panelled cupboard in the possession of guy laking, esq. , 

iron-bound peter's pence box in louth church, Lincolnshire 

strong coffer in possession of glover's company, perth 

coffer in the castle buttery, durham. tempus henry viii. . 

"the strong chest," clay-next-the-sea church, norfolk 



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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



XI 



IN THE TEXT 



LATE GOTHIC COFFRET, FLEMISH ..... 

ARMOIRE AT AUBAZINE, CORREZE, FRANCE . . 

BACK OF THIRTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN CLIMPING CHURCH, SUSSEX 

PIVOT-HINGE OF THE STOKE D'ABERNON COFFER .... 

PIVOT-HINGE OF COFFER IN THE MUSEE DE CLUNY, PARIS 

THE CLIMPING COFFER IN 1836 ...... 

CARVED FIGURE BEARING THE ROYAL ARMS OF ENGLAND, ON COFFER IN THE MUSEE DE CLUNY, PARIS 

THIRTEENTH-CENTURY ARMOIRE IN THE SACRISTY OF BAYEUX CATHEDRAL 

DIAPER PATTERNS IN BLACK, WHITE, AND RED, ON THE BAYEUX ARMOIRE 

MAKER'S MARK ON COFFER IN SALTWOOD CHURCH, KENT .... 

INGLE-NOOK SEAT WITH BOX TOP, FIFTEENTH CENTURY .... 

PANEL OF THE ALNWICK COFFER ...... 

INCISED PATTERN ON THE LID OF THE FAVERSHAM COFFER 

FOURTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER, FORMERLY IN WITTERSHAM CHURCH, KENT 

LID OF A CHEST IN DERSINGHAM CHURCH, NORFOLK .... 

ST. GEORGE, FROM COFFER FRONT IN THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM 
DOVETAILING IN CONSTRUCTION OF HARTY COFFER .... 

SUPPOSED MAKER'S MARK ON HARTY COFFER .... 

FOURTEENTH-CENTURY KNIGHTLY COFFER IN YPRES CATHEDRAL 
CARVED FIGURES OF ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON, AND LOCK-PLATE, ON THE FLEMISH COFFER IN 
SOUTHWOLD CHURCH, SUFFOLK ..... 

DOVETAILING OF FRONT AND SIDES WITH UPRIGHTS, IN THIRTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER, YPRES MUSEUM 

FIFTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN ST. MICHAEL'S CHURCH, COVENTRY . 

CREDENCE, SCULPTURED ON THE STALLS OF AMIENS CATHEDRAL 

FIGURE OF ST. GEORGE ON FRENCH CABINET OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY 

MAKER'S MARK ON FRENCH CABINET OF FIFTEENTH CENTURY 

CARVED DOOR ON FIFTEENTH-CENTURY CABINET IN THE RYKSMUSEUM, AMSTERDAM 

SACRED MONOGRAM ON CABINET IN THE STEEN MUSEUM, ANTWERP 

CHEST IN THE POSSESSION OF H. JEAFFRESON, ESQ. . 

WINGED FIGURE ON FIFTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN ST. MICHAEL'S CHURCH, COVENTRY 

FRENCH MEDALLION PANEL OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY 

NORMAN CAPITAL, BRIDLINGTON PRIORY, YORKSHIRE .... 

DETAILS OF DRAPERY ON RECUMBENT EFFIGY OF ARCHBISHOP GREY, IN YORK MINSTER 
TOMB IN THE CEMETERY, BOLOGNA ....•• 

FRENCH AND FLEMISH EXAMPLES OF LINEN PANEL .... 

ANGULAR LINEN PANELLING IN THE AUTHOR'S COLLECTION 



PAGE 

Title-page 



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Xll 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



LINEN-PANEL DOOR IN CUPBOARD, IN THE COLLECTION OF EDWARD BARRY, ESQ. 

ARCHED LINEN PANEL ON COFFER IN MUSEE HISTORIQUE, ORLEANS 

LINEN PANELLING IN VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM 

LINEN PANEL AT RYE HOUSE 

PANELLING AT HAMPTON COURT PALACE 

PANEL AT HAMPTON COURT . 

FLEMISH LINEN PANEL IN AUTHOR'S COLLECTION 

DOUBLED LINEN-PATTERN PANEL 

FINIS OF THE LINEN PANEL 

LATE LINEN PANEL (DATED 1 642) 

LOCK-PLATE ON COFFER IN CHICHESTER CATHEDRAL 

THIRTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN CHOBHAM CHURCH, SURREY 

SIXTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN ATTLEBOROUGH CHURCH, NORFOLK , 

TREASURE COFFER IN THE PYX CHAPEL, WESTMINSTER 

CASKET COVERED WITH " CUIR-BOUILLI " IN VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM 

SIDE VIEW OF THIRTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN YPRES MUSEUM 



PAGE 
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II 9 

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125 



ANCIENT 
COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 




CHAPTER I 
INTRODUCTORY 

HE subject of Ancient Furniture is necessarily a complex one, 
and that branch of it which relates to Coffers and Cupboards 
perhaps not the least so. International influences were so 
strong and so curiously intermingled with the fashions which 
successively arose during the Middle Ages that a history or 
description of British work alone would be singularly and 
lamentably deficient without copious reference to the styles which prevailed generally 
in Northern Europe, including even Scandinavia, and in Italy. 

We are accustomed to particularise certain things nowadays with the stereotyped 
expression " Made in Germany." This in the abstract is indeed nothing new ; old 
documents and inventories executed some four hundred years or so back not 
unfrequently refer to " Flanders chests," these being for possibly a couple of centuries 
a recognised article of import. 

When the Flemings did not export their goods they sent us their workmen, 
who introduced many new phases and details into things which were undoubtedly 
made on English soil. 

Hither also came the Italian, perverting our ideas from the pointed or Gothic style 
to the classic taste of Rome. German influence, if not actual workmanship, is 
distinctly visible in much of the ironwork with which articles of domestic use were 
furnished, and although German work in an architectural sense does not seem to 
have exercised any impression on our early wood-carvers, the treatment of heraldry 
and its decorative accompaniments certainly received some impetus from German 
contemporaries. A near resemblance to their peculiar management of flowers and 
fruit in conventional forms when applied to ornamental purposes was, about the 
junction of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, freely adopted over here. 

Our nearest neighbour, France, after the approximation of styles which followed 
the Conquest became obsolete, contributed perhaps less to the variety of borrowed 
mannerisms than any other nation, for what reason it is difficult to imagine, except that 
peace between the countries was a thing which rarely existed. North of the Tweed 



2 ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 

some strong influences may be traced, but in England French motive power in design 
and decoration of furniture did not assert itself again until comparatively recent times. 
French designs and methods, however, which were engrafted on English ground by 
the Norman Conquest, continued while they lasted to show the most remarkable 
affinity to work which was being produced on the opposite side of the Channel. In 
Normandy more especially the earlier stages of Gothic or pointed styles proceeded on 
nearly the same lines as in England, and the similarity between wood and also iron- 
work sometimes renders the "placing" of early caskets and coffers a matter of 
extreme difficulty. For instance, a coffer said to be French, of the second half of 
the thirteenth century, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, at South Kensington, is 
so identical with our English work of the same epoch that were its history totally 
unknown few critics would be venturesome enough to pronounce emphatically on its 
nationality, and those who did would probably differ in their opinions (see note i). 

It is hard to picture the conditions under which our ancestors lived at the period 
to which such relics belong. Luxury and discomfort went hand in hand. Art was 
associated with squalor, and the gorgeously designed and carved buffet which formed 
an indispensable part of the equipment of the banqueting-hall often stood inches deep 
in an accumulation of decaying rushes mingled with filth, which strewed the floor, 
and was removed at the rarest intervals, and which proved a potent factor in 
assisting to destroy productions of the greatest beauty (see note 2). 

In many a mediaeval sideboard, the upper part of which has possibly been 
respected by the hand of man, the base and legs, if existing at all, are now in 
a state resembling unsound cork, to which we believe this foul mode of living greatly 
contributed. 

The terms "chest" and "cabinet" are used pretty generally nowadays, even by 
collectors, but the varieties are many, and there is a proper method of classification 
according to ancient form and usage which should not be lost sight of. 

The Coffer, as its name implies, was a box of great strength intended for the 
keeping and transport of weighty articles, and having its front formed by a single 
panel, thus carrying out the architectural term. Great sums of money, gold, silver 
plate, and even shot and bullets, are spoken of by the old chroniclers as being kept 
and carried in coffers (see note 3). The simpler construction of the single panel 
would necessarily give greater strength than a box made of many pieces. In 
olden times a coffer was sometimes called a " treasury," and for the keeper or 
guardian of the box the terms "treasurer" and "cofferer" were synonymous. 

There seems to have been a Guild or Union of Cofferers in the Middle Ages, from 
which probably sprang the first seeds of our present Cabinet Makers' Union. 
Though little is known now of this society, its laws were apparently very strict, 
especially those which were directed against the making of " deceitful work " ; 
indeed, the aims of the Guild were directed fully as much towards the stringent 
maintenance of conscientious labour as to the protection of such work when 




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INTRODUCTORY 5 

accomplished. Sometimes the coffers of Trade Guilds were marked with the signs 
of their various crafts or ownership. There was formerly a coffer of sixteenth- 
century workmanship in the possession of the Glovers Company at Perth, which 
had its front incised with the representation of two gloves, a pair of scissors, and 
a roundel or reel. 

In France the name bahut was principally used to denote leathern trunks, but it 
was sometimes applied to strong boxes and coffers intended for travelling purposes. 
The term huche, by which an ordinary trough or bin is now designated, was used 
in the Middle Ages for household coffers of a rough description, The maker of 
coffers was often termed a huchier. In England the weighty receptacles used for 
packing and storing purposes were often termed "trussing chests." The name 
" bride wain " was also used, and still is in some of the northern counties, to indicate 
a marriage coffer. 

The Credence of the Middle Ages was in the nature of a table and a cupboard 
combined — in fact, a shallow cupboard elevated upon legs with sometimes a shelf under- 
neath. It might or might not be used for ecclesiastical purposes, though the name is 
now exclusively applied to articles in religious use. The cupboard in this case would 
be used to contain the sacred elements and vessels, but if intended for domestic 
purposes a very different meaning was attached to the name. In the latter case the 
credence would stand in the dining-halls of noble and wealthy families and would be 
used to carve the meats upon. The steward would taste a portion off each joint 
before serving — an ominous but essential precaution, taken to prevent poisoning. 

The credence for domestic purposes often attained to the height of several stories, 
and though no English example is known to remain, some fine French and Flemish 
pieces of this type, dating from the fifteenth century, are still in existence. The 
descendant of the domestic credence is still with us in the shape of our modern buffet 
or sideboard. 

Food lockers of various kinds were also made and used during the Middle Ages. 
They are mostly known by the name of Almeries or Dole Cupboards, but though 
some of them may have been put to charitable purposes it is probable that a good 
many were originally intended for domestic use. Those almeries which were meant 
for the keeping of food were generally pierced with perforations to admit air, in the 
form of Gothic tracery. In the illustration to Froissar£s Chronicles representing the 
sudden death of Count Gaston de Foix, a cupboard of this description may be seen, 
set out with flagons and plate in preparation for the meal which was to take place 
at the inn (see note 4). That Almeries were occasionally used for other purposes 
may be gathered from Malory's Morte d Arthur, in which (book xvii., chapter xxiii.) 
the books are said to have been "put in almeries at Salisbury." 

A much scarcer thing is the armoire, a type so difficult to find that an example of 
home manufacture dating from Gothic times is of the greatest rarity, and in fact 
scarcely to be met with in England. The armoire was a cumbrous piece of furniture, 



6 ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 

being in the nature of a great press or wardrobe. The body was not elevated on legs 
after the manner of the credence, but reached down to the floor, the lower space as 
well as the upper being enclosed with doors or shutters. Owing its derivation to 
the Latin armarium, it is thought by some that the armoire might be used as 
a cupboard to contain armour or arms, and it may be that the name originally 
became connected with this particular species of receptacle, not only on account 
of its strength, but the use it was applied to for keeping warlike panoplies in. 
Armour in the Middle Ages was an excessively costly production, being often a 
work of the highest art, and it is unlikely that the nobility, whose harness would 
be of an infinitely superior description to the jacks and headpieces worn by their 
retainers, would allow such suits to rust aloft on the damp walls of their castles. 
War alarms were sudden in those days, and much inconvenience and delay would have 
attached to such a custom, nor do we believe there is any mediaeval illustration in 
existence which depicts armour hanging as now seen in our old country mansions. 
Armour was only hung aloft as a decoration when its use had departed, as memorials 
over the tombs of deceased warriors, for whom it had been specially made, or later, 
when in the time of Charles II. the improvement of artillery and musketry rendered 
its use unavailing. An old engraved Dutch portrait of Charles I. shows his armour 
placed in a cupboard beside him, and we may readily suppose that the practice dated 
from earlier times. The exceeding rarity of existing armoires renders reference very 
difficult. A fine example of the fifteenth century remains in Munich Cathedral, while 
another German specimen of about the same date has found a home in our Victoria 
and Albert Museum. France possesses notable armoires at Bayeux and Noyon, 
and probably others remain in less known parts. 

The Court Cupboard is a modification of the armoire which appears to have first 
come into use during the reign of Elizabeth. The court cupboard differs essentially 
from the armoire. It was never intended for a hanging cupboard, which the armoire 
seems to have been. The superstructure was generally recessed and the cornice 
supported with balusters. The doors were small and square and in the form of a 
single panel. Often the court cupboard was merely a sort of hutch elevated on legs, 
but the space beneath was sometimes enclosed with doors of a larger size, more after 
the manner of its predecessor. During Henry the Eighth's reign cupboards were 
made which partook of the nature of both types, combining the uniform flatness of the 
armoire with the small upper story of the court cupboard. Court cupboards of 
three stories high are common in Wales and Shropshire, but they are mostly late 
productions and wanting in character and design. 

The Cabinet was a much more minute article, and would perhaps be best exemplified 
by a nest of drawers enclosed by folding doors, or by a movable flap. 

Intelligent search may not unfrequently reveal some special or uncommon feature, 
but in general structure the objects mentioned are each as distinctive as separate types 
of furniture of the present time. 




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CHAPTER II 
THE DARK AGES 

WHAT is believed to be the earliest carved receptacle of English 
workmanship extant in a fairly perfect state is a casket in the British 
Museum. Although belonging in point of fact to a subject outside the 
scope of the present work, this casket is so absolutely unique in 
character, and sheds such a ray of light upon the obscurities of the Viking Age, 
that it is expedient to include it. Of small size, measuring only some 9 inches in 
length, *j\ inches in width, and 5^ inches in height, the box has been fashioned 
out of whale's bone, beautifully polished, and elaborately carved with a variety of 
subjects, accompanied by inscriptions in Anglo-Saxon runes in the Northumbrian 
dialect. The carvings represent severally Romulus and Remus suckled by the 
wolf, the Adoration of the Magi, the beheading of St. John the Baptist (doubtful), 
and an episode from the Teutonic legend of Egil, while the combat depicted on the 
back is sufficiently explained by the description : — 

"HERE FIGHT TITUS AND JEWS, 

HERE FLY JERUSALEM INHABITANTS." 

In this subject, as well as that on the front plaque of the casket, a strong 
resemblance to "long and short" work is shown in the architecture. The early 
conical helmet with its projecting nasal is also seen in some of the figures. 

Round the box runs a stave-rime, which George Stephens, the well-known 
writer on Scandinavian subjects, has thus rendered into modern English : — 

" The whale's bone from the fishes' flood (sea), 
I lifted on Fergen Hill. 
He was gash'd to death in his gambols 
As aground he swam in the shallows." 

Or as another writer, the late Rev. D. H. Haigh, interprets it : — 

" Whale's bone, fish flood, 
Above on hill bridge. 
Dusky back was vanquished 
Where he ashore swam." 



io ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 

Haigh and others have identified the name Fergen Hill, or Hill Bridge, as Ferry 
Hill in County Durham. It is supposed that the whale crossed the bar at some 
extraordinarily high tide, and being left injured and helpless fell an easy prey to the 
natives. 

This precious and unique casket was presented to the British Museum by A. W. 
Franks, Esq., its late enterprising keeper, whose account of its acquirement is as 
follows : — 

"When the casket came into my hands it was in pieces. It was obtained from a 
dealer in Paris, and was considered to be Scandinavian. The form of the runes, 
however, clearly proves its origin. I traced the casket into the hands of Professor 
Mathieu, of Clermont Ferrand, in Auvergne." 

Mathieu's further account of its history, rendered from the rather mixed dialect 
which the original represents, is briefly this : " The monument was in a private house 
of Auzon, the chief town of a canton of the district of Brionde, department of La 
Haute Loire. The ladies used it as a work-box, and kept in it their thread and 
needles. It was mounted in silver. One of the sons of the house took it to pieces 
and exchanged the plaques for une Bague de celles quon nomme chevalieres. If one 
were allowed to make a conjecture, one would add that the Church of Auzon (see 
note 5) is traced back — by its colonnated porch and by the paintings of a ruined 
chapel — to the ninth or at least the tenth century. This church had a chapter of 
twelve canons." 

Franks adds that Professor Mathieu informed him " that in consequence of the 
removal of the mountings the box fell to pieces, and some of them got lost. He 
offered a reward for the missing end, but it was supposed to have been thrown away 
on a heap, and carried out to manure the vines" (see note 6). This is the scanty 
extent of the known history of Mr. Franks' casket. Conjecture, in the person of the 
Rev. Haigh, supplies a wonderful field for the imagination. On the back, in the left 
and right-hand lower corners respectively, are the words "dom-gisl," while on the top 
is what Stephens describes as an episode from the legend of Egil, one of the figures 
having the word "aegili" inscribed above him. This conjunction of words and 
places inspired Haigh to weave the thread of a visionary historical romance round 
the casket. 

Agila was a king of Spain who was slain in 554 at Cordova, and his son 
Athnagild was father of Gailesunth, wife of the celebrated Chilperic, King of 
Soissons. In 582 Chilperic sent an envoy to Spain to inspect the dowry which 
Reccared, son of Linvigild, had offered, as a suitor for the hand of Regunth, 
Chilperic's daughter. This envoy was named Domegiselus, afterwards Governor of 
Angers. Haigh thinks that the casket must have been made for Athnagild's queen 
or for her daughter Gailesunth, who was wife of Chilperic. He identifies the words 
"dom-gisl" with the signature of the envoy Domgiselus, who he thinks was the artist 
of the casket, and who several times travelled between the two countries. If this 




\*C&V"\\0C 



ARMOIRE AT AUBAZINE, CORREZE, FRANCE 

Late twelfth or early thirteenth century. Front view 
Height 7 feet 81 inches ; length 7 feet 10 inches 






THE DARK AGES 13 

were only correct we should be in the possession of a signed work of art of the sixth 
century, but support to his view is unfortunately scanty, "aegili" he takes to be 
Agili, King of Spain, father of Athnagild, and grandfather of Chilperic's wife. He 
adds : "Thus the casket, worthy even to have been a wedding present from Chilperic 
to Gailesunth, would be made about 567, for that was the year of her marriage, and 
in the following year she was murdered, and thus it has not travelled far from its 
original home when it rested at Auzon." 

Stephens says that this is all very ingenious, but thinks it a mere fanciful 
combination. He believes that it is more than doubtful that the two words " dom- 
gisl " are one name at all, and looks on the date 567 as two hundred years too early. 
It would be dear to the antiquary to believe that this precious relic could actually 
have been connected with Chilperic and the sister of the famous, or infamous, 
Brunehaut ; but Stephens is so fully master of his subject, and has dealt with it in so 
learned a manner, that to doubt his decision would be presumptuous. 

It has been settled now, so far as is humanly possible, that the remains of 
St. Cuthbert's coffin, made in 698, may with certainty be regarded as those in the 
Cathedral Library at Durham. These fragments, which at the exhumation of the 
saint's body, in 1827, were flung into a drawer and forgotten till within the last few 
years, have now been pieced together with the most wonderful patience, presenting 
a fairly accurate idea of the incised decoration of wooden receptacles as practised 
in England during the seventh century. The coffin is covered with outlined figures 
of saints and apostles. In the representation of the Blessed Virgin and our Lord, 
at the foot of the coffin, is a most peculiar flow or following of line, which should be 
noticed by the student of archaic sculpture. Each of these examples have insertions 
of Roman type sprinkled among their Runic descriptive embellishments. Their 
decoration would no doubt be entrusted to the best local artists obtainable at the 
time. It is curious that both these exceedingly early and interesting specimens 
should have been made in such close vicinity. 

Of typical Norman work in coffers we know the least ; presses or armoires, we 
have evidence, existed in some form or another. A very ancient armoire remains to 
this day in the Church of Aubazine, Correze, in France. It has doors composed of 
planks, clamped with strap-hinges with circular tops, and is without doubt the oldest 
of its class in existence. 

At Brampton Church, Northamptonshire, is a very ancient coffer, bound on the 
lid, front, and sides with ironwork, the scrolls of which are not split from the stem, 
but join on to small blocks resembling binding straps. Viollet le Due put this chest 
down as dating from the last years of the twelfth century. 

Norman fonts, which abound throughout the kingdom, and especially a Norman 
stoup in Davington Church, Kent, give a fanciful idea as to what scale the 
decoration of woodwork on similar lines may possibly have been carried to. No 
carved woodwork, however, of so early a period is in existence, and it is believed by 



H 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



some authorities that prior to the second half of the thirteenth century decoration of 
furniture was confined to painting and embellishment by aid of the blacksmiths' art 
(see note 7). Forgeries occasionally crop up. A reputed Norman casket of wood, 
lavishly decorated with ornamental mouldings of the period, shown among the 
antiquities in the Chapel of Dover Castle, is, we believe, admittedly the work of a 
sometime petty official stationed there. 

At Canterbury in the Cathedral Library is preserved a hutch of oak with a 
rounded top, which is stated to be of Norman work. This, from the character of its 
ironwork, cannot date earlier than the sixteenth century, and is evidently not a piece 
of furniture at all, but a lining which was provided in later times to fit a recess in one 
of the Norman arcadings. The wood shell, which is not more than a quarter of an 
inch thick, fully corroborates this, and the measurements of the hutch with portions 
of the arcading exactly correspond. 



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ARMOIRE AT AUBAZINE 
Side view. Depth 2 feet gj inches 




COFFER BOUND WITH IRON SCROLL-WORK IX BRAMPTON CHURCH, NORTHAMPTONSHIRE 

End of the Twelfth Century or beginning of the Thirteenth 




THIRTEENTH CENTURY COFFER IN CLIMPING CHURCH. SUSSEX 

Present state 



CHAPTER III 
THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY 

BETWEEN the Anglo-Saxon specimens noticed and our next earliest 
receptacle of carved wood there is a hiatus of five or six hundred years. 
It is not until the thirteenth-century work is reached that we are able 
nowadays to arrive, by the senses of sight and touch, at a definite idea as to 
what the decorative strong-boxes of our forefathers were actually like. A fair number 
of examples of this period are left to us. The wonderful coffers still remaining in the 
churches of Stoke d'Abernon, Climping, and Saltwood, and the Victoria and Albert 
Museum, give silent evidence as to what was being carried out in the dark days when 
Matthew Paris wrote his famous chronicles and Simon de Montfort warred against 
the Crown. 

The reason of the scarcity of early specimens is not difficult to determine, even if 
the great lapse of time and consequent decay were not to be taken into consideration. 
Furniture of any description down to late Plantagenet times was inconveniently scarce 
— so much so, in fact, that the wealthy classes when leaving home on any considerable 
journey generally carried a goodly portion of their movables with them, for con- 
venience both at the inns at which they stopped en route as well as at their ultimate 
destination. Even the inventory of furniture taken at the huge Castle of Kenilworth 
in 1584 exhibits a comparative paucity of chattels, which contrasts strangely with 
their recorded magnificence. Thus it happens that while many published treatises on 
ancient furniture abound with engravings of Jacobean or Georgian examples, work of 
a Gothic character is scantily represented by a few illustrations copied from well- 
known manuscripts or else " designed from authentic sources." One thing, however, 
*s evident. Before the Reformation the Church dominated almost everything, and 
there is plenty of evidence that its influence extended to things in domestic use 
wherever design or ornament was an object. 

In coffers of the thirteenth century we find almost invariably the same construction 
throughout. The face or front was formed by a single mighty piece of wood, or else 
by two or more pieces placed longitudinally, which the carver then treated as one 
panel. This crude method of construction was not best calculated to display the art 
of wood-carving, the cleavage of the material compelling most forms of architectural 

'5 



i6 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



decoration to be cut across the grain. The casing of recessed panels was yet to come, 
but when attained at a later date the advantage secured to the wood-craftsman was 
obvious. At this period the two front uprights or legs were left uncovered, being 
often brought flush with the panel, and their broad surface decorated with carving. 
The bases of the uprights were sometimes ornamented with representations of dragons 
and other fabulous monsters grotesquely carved, and towards the end of the Early 
English period and during the following century this decoration was extended and 
carried up the stiles in successive stories or compartments. Excessive breadth of 
framing — which in our time is generally associated with roughness of workmanship — 
is a characteristic of early furniture which seems to have declined with the reign of 




BACK OF THIRTEENTH -CENTURY COFFER IN CLIMPING CHURCH, SUSSEX 
Showing pin-hinge and protecting chains 



Henry VIII. In coffers of the Early English period the stiles or uprights are often 
enormous, measuring sometimes as much as eleven or twelve inches in width. Yet in 
spite of this tendency to heaviness there is a symmetry about the measurements 
which is very attractive. Many of the early conventual coffers are provided with two 
or three locks, but this fashion would appear to have become actually prevalent at 
a later period, when additions were made. Towards the end of the fourteenth 
and during the fifteenth century the disposition of the carving often indicates 
that this plurality was part of the original plan. The keys in each case would be 
differently warded, and severally possessed by the persons whose duty it was to 
guard the revenues, vestments, or archives of the establishment to which they 
belonged. In our earliest receptacles, however, we do not find evidence of there 
having been primarily more than one lock-plate, the others evidently being 




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THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY 



19 



additions of a later date. The coffer ends of this and the succeeding period 
were often clamped with cross-bars of wood resembling the strengthening grille often 
seen at the backs of doors of Gothic fortalices. One feature may be noticed in 
coffers of the thirteenth century which is absolutely peculiar to this period. The lids 
possessed no hinges, but revolved on pivots which were inserted horizontally through 
the back uprights. These uprights were rounded at the top to give play to the lid, 
and the semi-circular tops fitted into hollows of a similar shape made in strengthening 
wooden clamps which were fastened on the under side of the lid at each end. When 
the coffer was closed these flanges covered the junction between the lid and sides, and 
effectually prevented any attempt to force the box at its weakest part. The methods 
by which the clamps were brought level with the uprights were various. Sometimes 





PIVOT-HINGE OF THE STOKE D'ABERNON 
COFFER 



PIVOT-HINGE OF COFFER IN THE MUSEE DE CLUNY, 
PARIS 



it was effected by sloping the ends inwards to allow space for the clamps to fit in, and 
sometimes by making the clamp the top, and consequently a movable bar of the 
grille. Another and more elaborate method was by cutting a half- section from 
both the side panels and clamps, thus allowing the surface to fit evenly, and further 
strengthening the grip by means of an upright pin and socket. Untouched coffers 
of the period are sufficiently rare to render it a matter of some difficulty to study 
these features, but examples of the three varieties may be seen at Climping, Stoke 
d'Abernon, and the Cluny Museum respectively. At Stoke d'Abernon, the pivot is 
covered with a piece of iron shaped like a Norman shield, and in the Cluny example 
with a rose. The iron-bound coffer from the Peyre Collection, No. 733, Victoria 
and Albert Museum, which has already been mentioned, curiously enough shows no 
indication of ever having possessed the peculiar form of mechanism just noticed. The 



20 ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 

lid, it is true, is not the original one, which would probably have been covered with 
iron scroll-work agreeing with that on the body of the coffer, but there are no signs 
of the pivot sockets in the back uprights, and the ornamental ironwork on the sides of 
the coffer approaches so nearly to the top as to preclude all possibility of any flanges 
being fitted to the lid. In the author's own collection is a very interesting Early 
English coffer, having its front carved with tracery, and exhibiting a good specimen of 
the pivot-hinge. The bottom of this coffer is wedged in by an inward curvature of 
the side walls, thus giving great strength and resistance to any attempt at forcing. 
Beneath the lock plate is carved an early type of rose. 

Another feature may be noticed which was peculiar to the period and which is now 
seldom seen. It is obvious that locks in front and flanges at the sides constituted a 
defence in themselves. The absence, however, of any hinges at the back rendered 
that part of the lid the easiest and most likely point of attack. To remedy this, some 
small chains were occasionally fastened to staples driven through the back of the 
coffers and attached to the iron bands which crossed the lid, thus acting as a guard 
against the most desperate attempts at leverage. At no other period was this 
peculiarity in vogue. A plain, massive coffer of Early English work, with its chains 
intact, may be seen in Shere Church, Surrey. The extra precaution in this case was 
rendered all the more necessary by the excessive length of the coffer, which measures 
some 7 feet 3 inches. This example was probably placed in the church about the time 
when the western doorway and font were added (circa 1250). It is presumably the 
coffer which Brayley speaks of in his History of Surrey as containing a very interest- 
ing volume of churchwardens' accounts, commencing in the time of Henry VII. and 
extending down to the latter end of Elizabeth's reign. 

There are probably no older coffers bearing any pretence to decorative carving 
remaining in the kingdom than those in the churches of Graveney, Kent ; Climping, 
Sussex ; and Stoke d'Abernon, Surrey. Their date may approximately be placed at 
about the middle of the thirteenth century. The decoration of the Graveney example 
is the simplest, consisting of a row of five Early English arches incised on the front, 
the lid being strengthened by two iron bands covered with a cross-hatched pattern. 
The whole thing is in a fairly perfect state and entirely free from restoration. The 
Climping coffer is rather more elaborate, but the cusping of its ten arches is singular 
and rather less pronounced than in the Graveney example. Since Shaw published his 
book on Ancient Furniture in 1836 the feet of this coffer, with their beautiful indented 
patterns, have disappeared, and the lower edge has been embellished with a piece of 
new moulding nailed on by the village carpenter. Geometrical roundels, or whirles as 
they are sometimes called, are carved on the front and uprights. The coffer must 
have been made for the church after its completion in the first half of the thirteenth 
century. Two out of the three chains still remain at the back. Stoke d'Abernon 
Church is notorious as possessing the earliest brass in England, but it is not so well 
known that it also contains one of our very earliest carved coffers. In this example a 



»BEflil'.r ~ " — -■ ., . '"' ' "' *•*•••' -"-fi^Li— " ii ™i«f • *t; •' *"■■ ^^i^Sfej-: >w^i«-H'-^».; ^-»* T.,-,i.''^.""_r."..i^2. 




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THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY 



25 



noticeable feature is the immense breadth of the stiles compared with the small size of 
the coffer itself. The inner edges of the legs are carved with simple moulded 
pilasters, and the front is enriched with three roundels filled with geometrical tracery, 
these being almost the only decoration. In the roundels on this example, as well as in 
those on the Climping coffer, we discern traces of that tendency to Scandinavian 
design which cropped up in the thirteenth and was afterwards fitfully revived in the 
fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. Both the Climping and Stoke d'Abernon coffers 
have a money slot for " Peter's Pence" over their trays, and have probably been used 
as almeries from the commencement of their existence. An interesting Early English 
coffer exists (or did until recently) in Chichester Cathedral. It has much the same 
character as the Stoke d'Abernon specimen, but is of rather later date. 




THE CLIMPING COFFER IN 1 836 

From Shaw's Specimens 0/ Ancient Furniture 



Coffers of the thirteenth century bearing representations of the human figure are 
excessively scarce. The Cluny Museum in Paris possesses a superb specimen of this 
kind, which, however, dates from rather late in the century, and has been much 
restored (see note 8). This masterpiece was formerly in the possession of M. A. 
Gerente, a well-known connoisseur, and was purchased at the sale of his collection by 
the authorities of the museum. The front is carved with a representation of twelve 
armed knights standing beneath early ogival canopies. The details of the costume 
and equipment of these figures are remarkable. They are clad from head to foot in 
ringed mail, and their headpieces include varieties of the heaume, the casque, and the 
chapelle de fer. Most of the figures have on their shoulders those curious square 
ailettes which puzzle our antiquaries so much, otherwise there is no trace of plate in 
their defensive armour. One of the figures — that under the last bay but one on the 



26 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



right hand — is crowned, and his shield bears as device the three leopards of England. 
The lid is carved with a variety of subjects, enclosed in quatrefoil medallions. 
Amongst them may be noticed two menials drinking what was technically known as a 
"yard of ale." Both back and sides, as well as front and lid, are enriched with carving ; 

there is scarcely an undecorated space on the whole coffer. 
The subject at one end is a group of knights on horseback 
being guided by a hind or yokel. The expressions on the 
various countenances are truly comic. The decoration generally, 
though it includes architectural features of an ecclesiastical 
type, indicates that this coffer was intended for secular 
purposes. In mentioning this coffer M. Viollet le Due has 
said : " Nous regardons ce meuble comme le plus beau qui 
nous soit reste de ce siecle." The mechanical fitting of the 
lid has already been mentioned as the most elaborate of its 
kind. It should be noticed that the strap bands on the Cluny 
coffer, together with the lock -plate and chains, though in 
every way correct, have the appearance of being replacements 
of a more recent date. Indeed, the ironwork may generally 
be open to doubt as a restoration. 

As already mentioned, it is believed that painting formed 
one of the earliest methods of decorating furniture. A fine 
example of the painted coffers of the thirteenth century exists 
in the parvise of Newport Church, Essex. It is a big iron- 
bound mass, carved with shields on the upper and a row 
of plain circles on the lower part of its front. Between these 
ornamentations is a singular and unique feature — a band of 
open tracery, cast in lead or pewter, and fitted into lozenge- 
shaped compartments sunk to receive them. The lid, which 
has been unfortunately cased and panelled in oak during the last century, is decorated 
on the inside with oil paintings, representing Christ on the Cross, the Virgin Mary, 
St. Peter, St. John, and St. Paul. Over each of the figures is a cusped Early English 
arch, painted in red and green, which colours predominate almost without variation 
throughout all the five figures. The heads of the Apostles are evidently portraits, and 
remarkable for character, most probably having been executed by some monkish artist, 
from models selected from his brethren. The shields on the front of the coffer were 
once resplendent with armorial bearings, but these have now disappeared, the only traces 
of this ornamentation being a stain which the oil has left round each of the shields. 
The painting on the Newport coffer proves conclusively that oil was used as a vehicle 
in England at this early period. It may be regarded as the earliest national specimen 
of that art remaining. Incorporated with the coffer is a fitted strong-box, which bears 
some evidence of having been added at a later date, probably during the fourteenth 







CARVED FIGURE BEARING THE 

ROYAL ARMS OF ENGLAND 

On the thirteenth century knightly coffer 
in the Musee Cluny, Paris 




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century. It also possesses a secret sliding panel in the bottom, guarded from 
observation by two false transoms. The lock is full of interest, being one of the 
very earliest original locks on an English coffer in existence. There is a remarkable 
but simple device for masking the keyhole by means of a small dropping plate. 
As usual, nothing whatever is known of the history of this remarkable coffer. 
Fairholt, who wrote some remarks on it in 1847, mentions that the centre band was 
then painted a deep, rich brown, and that the circles underneath, of a similar colour, 
bore marks on their ground tint of having once possessed metal decorations similar 
to those above. Since his day the metal remains have been acquired for the South 
Kensington Museum, and replaced by gilt casts of the original work. 

Much scarcer than coffers are the armoires of this early period, and of cabinets we 
know nothing except from contemporary manuscript illustrations. Anything of the kind 
intended for secular use is now non-existent — internecine wars have wiped out what 




Vr«-«x v^* 



THIRTEENTH-CENTURY ARMOIRE IN THE SACRISTY OF BAYEUX CATHEDRAL 



rot and worm might have spared. At Bayeux, in Normandy, in the upper sacristy of 
the cathedral, a marvellous specimen remains. Little known, and thrown completely 
into shade by the fame of Matilda's tapestry, the quaint old Norman town contains 
few treasures more interesting than this. It is a huge double-storied press of oak, 
both floors being divided into seven compartments. Each of these is closed by a 
shutter, working on strap hinges, the ends of which terminate in fleur-de-lis. The 



3o 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 




unequal number of doors, opening alternately dos a dos, presents one of those curious 
features of irregularity so frequently introduced by the mediaeval architect. With the 
exception of some simple finials the armoire is destitute of carving, but it has been 
painted with monkish subjects, bordered 
with patterns in black, white, and red, 
the greater part of which have now dis- 
appeared. Two more early armoires exist 
at Noyon Cathedral. One, of thirteenth- 
century work, has its shutters composed of 
planks and clamped with scroll hinges. It 
has a singular row of oblong doors closing 
the compartments at its base. The other, 
a much more elaborate example, has a roof- 
shaped top, surrounded by a pierced and 
embattled cornice. The framework of the 
armoire is of oak, but the shutters, which 
are of some white wood, are painted with 
figures and decorative patterns, both on 
the exterior and interior. The date of this 
remarkable piece of furniture is probably 
a hundred years later than the two others, 
though it is said to have been made in the 
thirteenth century. Noyon abounds in fine 
examples of early coffers, decorated lavishly 
with twisted ironwork and, in some in- 
stances, with tooth moulding. 

At Saltwood, in Kent, we possess a notable traceried coffer 
which dates from the borderland between the Early English 
and Decorated styles. The Saltwood coffer is said to have 
been translated from the castle some hundred and twenty years 
back, but the story is probably apocryphal. The tracery on 
its front is very beautiful, and the spaces between the supporting 
mullions are embellished with a line of roses, a very unusual 
feature. The original lid has unfortunately been replaced, 
apparently in Stuart times, by one of panelled deal. The coffer 
formerly possessed two locks, though others have been added. 
On the top edge of the front plank is what appears to be the 
maker's mark. 

At Peterborough Cathedral is a finely carved coffer which 
has more than once been quoted as a genuine specimen of 
thirteenth-century work. Nothing in the architectural decoration 




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On the Bayeux Armoire 




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MAKER S MARK 

On coffer in Saltwood Church, 
Kent 




PAINTED ARMOIRE IN THE CATHEDRAL OF NOYON, FRANCE 

Late thirteenth or early fourteenth century 






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or interior surface of this box can be objected to, but its colour and the 

knife-like sharpness of the carving proclaim its modernity. On examining the 

Peterborough coffer, inquiries revealed the fact that it was made of old wood, but 
in recent years. 

Westminster Abbey contains a good example of the conventual coffers of the 
thirteenth century. It is of good proportions and the legs are slightly but elegantly 
moulded. The chains at the back are perfect. 




INGLE-NOOK SEAT WITH BOX TOP AND DRAWERS 
French or Flemish, about 1500 



CHAPTER IV 
THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY 

WITH coffers of the fourteenth century we have a more extended field as 
regards design, but the number of examples remaining is not greatly in 
excess of those of the preceding epoch. The same construction was 
generally adhered to, the fronts being formed as one oblong panel and 
the ends clamped with crossed bars of wood. In many specimens the only changes 
noticeable are a greater richness of detail in carving, and the addition of hinges. A 
distinctly new feature, however, was introduced during the second half of the fourteenth 
century, this being the adornment of the fronts and sides with buttresses, and their 
consequent division into a series of panelled compartments. This more advanced 
mode of construction may be safely assigned to not earlier than the end of the 
Decorated period, as it may be pointed out that although the tracery may be of the 
purest flowing or geometrical type, details in wood-carving did not immediately follow 
architectural changes, and in many parts an approximation of style was not arrived 
at until some years had passed. It is noticeable, however, that these buttresses, instead 
of being applied to broad stiles, are fastened directly on the fronts of coffers treated 
with planks after the earlier style, the recessing of the panels by the addition of a 
further moulding round the framing belonging to the more developed conditions of 
the fifteenth century. Coffers of the fourteenth century, most of them architecturally 
treated, are to be found in many parts of England. The churches of Alnwick, 
Northumberland ; Brancepeth, Durham ; Haconby and Huttoft, Lincolnshire ; St. 
Peter's, Derby ; Wath by Ripon, Yorkshire ; St. Mary Magdalene, Oxford ; Cheving- 
ton, Suffolk ; Faversham and Rainham in Kent, may be picked out as examples, 
which while covering a wide field, are amongst the most noticeable in the country. 
Many of these possess a very great similarity, not only in design but execution, and 
practically almost the only difference between some of them is the number of bays 
or wheels with which they are carved. In the coffers at Haconby, Chevington, 
and Wath, the details are identical and leave no doubt that they must have sprung 
from the same origin. The feeling and method of the carving is unmistakeable. 
Coffers of this type often exhibit an approach to floridity in the manner of their 
decoration, and a fallacious impression exists that they were productions of either 
♦ 36 




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FOURTEENTH CENTURY COFFER IN HACONBY CHURCH, LINCOLNSHIRE 

Height. 2 ft. 32 in. Length, 3 ft. 8 in. Wklth. 1 ft. 8 in. 




FOURTEENTH CENTURY COFFER IN DERSINGHAM CHURCH, NORFOLK 




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THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY 39 

Flemish or German nationality. It may be pointed out, however, that mention of 
" Flanders chests " in wills and inventories is not to be found prior to the fifteenth 
century, and that this peculiarity may be put down to the period when they were 
manufactured. Such admittedly English coffers as the Saltwood and Oxford examples 
partake rather of the purity of the Early English than of the Decorated style, while 
at Huttoft the chest is so advanced as to be almost classed with the Perpendicular. 
Many of the so-called Decorated pieces, while actually being of fourteenth-century 
workmanship, are in fact early productions of the Perpendicular period, after the 
borderland between the two styles had been passed (see note 9). It is unnecessary 
to give a description in detail of all the Decorated coffers mentioned, but a few 
striking characteristics should be noticed. 

The coffer in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene at Oxford is one of the earliest 
fourteenth-century English examples remaining. This piece is locally known by the 
name of the "jewel chest" and it traditionally dates from the time of Henry VII. 
This, however, is quite an error, and may have arisen from the coffer being repaired 
or used at some special function during his reign. Its decoration is of a semi- Early 
English character, and while taking into consideration the " follow on " of our early 
wood-carvers' art, this piece certainly belongs to a period some hundred and fifty years 
prior to that suggested. The formation of the lid is massive and unusual, and on it 
is carved at each end a row of Gothic arches, similar to a contemporary example in 
the museum at Ypres. The early date of this coffer is shown by the fact that, although 
it has never possessed the pin-hinge, it is yet provided with lid flanges, shutting flush 
with the side grilles. The south aisle and other portions of St. Mary's Church were 
built circa 1320, and the coffer may have been made about the same time. The 
church was restored by Sir Gilbert Scott in 1847, when the coffer was also renovated, 
none too skilfully. The front has been patched in several places, but evidence can be 
seen that it at one time possessed two staples, as well as a large lock. The interior 
of the coffer is fitted with two trays, and a row of pigeon-holes, which appear to have 
been added at some later date. The plain portion beneath the carved arches on the 
front was most likely once painted with figures of saints or with religious subjects 
which disappeared during the stormy times of the Reformation. The mullions 
supporting these arches may also have been painted, as they have never been carved 
in relief. 

The coffers at Wath, Haconby, and Chevington are so surprisingly alike that an 
account of the architectural features of one would fairly well apply to the others. The 
main difference is that the Haconby example has three wheels or roundels filled with 
tracery, and supported by mullions, while those at Chevington and Wath have four 
and five respectively. The crocketing surmounting the gables is freely treated, and 
the spaces between filled in with gryphons, birds, etc. The stiles are carved with 
the usual monsters, apes, etc., in compartments, and in the Wath coffer human figures 
are introduced. The Chevington example has a one-sided look, owing to the existence 



4o 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



of only one upright on its front. The evident traces of a tenon on the end of the 
panel proves that the coffer has been mutilated at some time, the end being now boxed 
with a plain board. A legend exists in the village that the missing part was removed 
to make more room for the bellringer, but we are informed that the present incumbent 
and his ancestors have held the benefice for over one hundred years and that the 
coffer has always been in the same condition during their occupation. Inside, at 
the unmutilated end, is fixed a strong box of oak, with three locks, a species of 
incorporation which is seldom met with. The Alnwick and Brancepeth coffers bear 
a family likeness to the three just mentioned, the first-named bearing the earlier 
characteristics and probably belonging to the early part of the century. The front of 
the Alnwick coffer is divided, like the stiles, into three parallel compartments. In the 




PANEL OF THE ALNWICK COFFER 



top one, on either side of the lock, is carved a representation of a stag hunt, probably 
the earliest existing on a mediaeval box. The keepers wear a curious kind of smock 
unlike anything generally associated with the pleasures of the chase. The decorative 
treatment of the birds on the two lower divisions is extremely clever, those at the base 
having human heads hooded with the headdresses of the period. The lid of the 
Brancepeth coffer is panelled and decorated with an elaborate chamfer. This elaborate 
example dates from the introduction of the Perpendicular style, towards the end of 
the century. 

The Faversham coffer is a most beautiful piece of purely architectural work. It 
is somewhat puzzling, however, for while possessing superficially an earlier appearance, 
we are inclined to place it rather late in the Decorated period (see note 10). Elaborate 
as the coffer is, its construction still smacks of an early type, and in some respects it is 
most unusual. Although it is buttressed, the traceried windows are carved on planks 
placed longitudinally, instead of panels cased with framing. The uprights are treated 




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THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY 



43 




INCISED PATTERN ON THE LID OF THE 
FAVERSHAM COFFER 



in the same manner and brought flush, so as to form an even surface, upon which the 

arches, buttresses, and skirting-board are applique\ The buttresses are very simple in 

character, and the lid is incised with patterns composed of segments of circles. 

Though perfect not many years since, this coffer 

has now been reduced by senseless vandalism to 

merely the front and lid, the rest being replaced 

by "neat deal." One of the buttresses has also 

disappeared within the last few years. A coffer 

of absolutely identical design to that at Faversham 

stands in the Tufton Chapel in Rainham Church, 

Kent. Both these pieces show evidences of having 

been decorated with red ochre on the tracery, 

indeed their characteristics are so strikingly similar 

as to leave no doubt that they must have issued 

from the same source. The Rainham coffer, 

however, is not square, the front and back inclining 

inwards towards the top. The Huttoft chest, 

though of more strictly Decorated character, belongs to an advanced type which 

appeared during the last quarter of the century. Constructively it is a great 

advance on anything yet mentioned, being both panelled and buttressed. It used 

to be elevated on moulded legs instead of the ponderous flat uprights hitherto in 

vogue, but the chest has suffered much since Parker published his drawing of it, 

and the legs have now disappeared. This is almost the only remaining instance 

of an English chest on which the tracery has been cut out and then applied to 

the surface of the wood, after the manner of later foreign examples. 

A very complete and interesting coffret of early Perpendicular or Transition work 
is in the author's collection. It is in the nature of what is known as a "trustee box," 
the lid being divided, and a strong partition fixed across the inside of the coffret. A 
lock is fitted to each section of the lid, to open which separate keys would be required. 
The front is carved with very good tracery, and small iron bindings appear at the 
corners. These are evidently part of the original scheme, as wood supports on which 
to affix them have been left in parts where the tracery is sunk. The lid, like in 
many early pieces, is thicker in front than at the back, and the whole box appears 
to have been made with a view to strength as well as ornament. 

Among the many beautiful specimens which have disappeared during recent years, 
the coffer formerly at Wittersham Church, in the Isle of Oxney, Kent, may be 
specially noticed. This example has been engraved several times, and was remarkable 
for the purity of its Decorated tracery, and the advent of the buttress, at a date 
perhaps anterior to that of the coffer at Faversham, in the same county. The 
Wittersham coffer has vanished. It is stated that between the end of the last 
rector's tenancy and the incoming of the present incumbent, some twenty-seven years 



44 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



ago, an interval occurred, during which this fine example disappeared, and at the 
same time the stocks which had stood at the eastern extremity of the village for over 
two hundred years. The prey, doubtless, to some enthusiastic but unscrupulous 
collector, neither stocks nor coffer have been discovered. The churchwardens and 
villagers always professed to know nothing about the removal, and the whole affair 
has remained a mystery. The loss of such a fine example of Decorated work is 
irreparable. The Rev A. J. Pearman, however, in the ArchcBologia Cantiana (1887), 
mentions this coffer as almost a myth, and states that the oldest inhabitant has never 




FOURTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER, FORMERLY IN WITTERSHAM CHURCH, KENT 
From The Dictionary oj Architecture, 1859 



heard so much as a rumour of it. He cites the letter of a Mrs. Deedes, widow of a 
former rector, who states that when a visitor went to the church to see the chest he 
was immensely disgusted to find that it was not there — "nor was anyone aware that it 
ever had been." 

A very valuable example of the end of the Decorated period is in the church at 
Dersingham, Norfolk. It is carved on the front with the emblems of the four 
Evangelists with their names on labels. Though this chest is made of planks of oak, 
after the early fashion, the symbols are separated by a raised imitation of framing 
within which they are recessed. The top and lower rails have a pattern of birds and 
roses placed alternately. On the corner uprights are carved late Decorated windows, 
similar to the east window of the church, which was built about the time of transition 







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COFFER IN WILNE CHURCH, DERBYSHIRE 




COFFER IN ST. PETER'S CHURCH, DERBY 

End of the Fourteenth or beginning of the Fifteenth Century. 



THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY 



47 



between this and the succeeding style. The uprights terminate at the lower end with 

cusped arches. Etchings of the Dersingham chest appear in Cotman's Architectural 

Remains, and a drawing of it is also included in the Dawson Turner Collection in the 

British Museum. These illustrations show that the feet have been considerably worn 

during late years. Cotman's book also gives a full view of the lid, which is one of the 

most interesting points about this example. Round the border in early lettering is the 

inscription: "jesus nazarenus crucifixsus. rex judeorum." Within the border 

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A A. 

whole thing is that the inscription, which commences on the band nearest the front, is 
reversed as it travels round the lid, that part which is on the back, or hinge rail, 
actually reading backwards. It is sad to find that half the lid has now disappeared. 




LID OF A CHEST IN DERSINGHAM CHURCH, NORFOLK 

From Cotman's Architectural Remains, 1838 
The right-hand half is now missing. Fourteenth century. 



Cotman's etching shows that it was sawn in half, though no traces of a partition exists 
in the centre of the chest. The left-hand half alone remains. This chest retains 
traces of rich colouring. Its construction is so unusual as to suggest the idea that it 
was not made by an ordinary chest maker, but rather by someone connected with 
timber roofing. It was undoubtedly made for the church in which it remains. 

At Wilne, Derbyshire, and St. Peter's Church, Derby, we have instances of two 
fourteenth-century coffers which have been mutilated. The Wilne coffer (which is 
much the earlier, and a most singular type) has apparently been toyed with and altered 
during the seventeenth century. The mullions on the lower front plank have been 
shaved off for some inexplicable reason, and the corners fitted with fresh uprights 
ornamented with an incised pattern. The Derby coffer resembles in a great degree 



4 8 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



that at Brancepeth, and belongs to the end of the fourteenth century. It has been 
a very fine work, one of the most beautiful of that type. Like its brother coffer, the 
crockets surmounting the tracery are interspersed with figures, though at Derby birds 
and gryphons alone appear, while at Brancepeth, apes and semi-human monsters may 
be found. The devils or chimeras on the uprights are finer in the Derby example, 
being admirably designed, but unfortunately a question of fit has caused the ends to 
be planed down by some local vandal. It is impossible to compare these two coffers 
without being convinced that they are by the same maker. 







FIGURE OF ST. GEORGE 
From fourteenth-century Coffer front in the Victoria and Albert Museum. 



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CHAPTER V 
TILTING COFFERS 

A FORGOTTEN GENIUS 

IN the fourteenth century mythical or warlike subjects seem to have become 
popular amongst the upper classes, for coffers of that date, as well as those of 
the early part of the succeeding century, often combine decoration of an 
architectural nature with groups of figures, the incidents represented being 
frequently those of the tourney or associated with deeds of arms (see note n). The 
architectural features are usually confined to the stiles, and are of a castellated or 
defensive order quite dissimilar to the ecclesiastical tracery used when the orna- 
mentation is derived from architecture alone. This departure tends to show how 
the dominating influence of the Church was partly replaced by an independent spirit 
of militarism. Some precious examples have descended to us, and in not a few of 
these traces of the same master hand are visible. Those remaining in England may 
be found in York Cathedral ; Harty Church, Isle of Sheppey ; Southwold Church, 
Suffolk ; and two specimens in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Of the latter, one 
is merely a panel or coffer-front minus the uprights, etc., the other is a coffret 
described as of French manufacture, and exhibiting no architectural details whatever. 
The panel of the York coffer and the first -mentioned South Kensington piece are 
almost identical, with the curious exception that the composition is reversed. The 
similarity of treatment, handling, and execution, the mannerisms and peculiarities, in 
each case, leave no doubt that they were executed by the same person. A legend 
exists, we believe, in certain quarters, that the panel in the Kensington example is the 
original of that in the York coffer, and that the latter is a copy which must have been 
substituted during some repairs. This is most certainly not the case. The measure- 
ments of the two panels do not agree, and careful inspection will only go farther to 
substantiate the fact that they are both originals of fourteenth-century work. Many 
theologians maintain that certain discrepancies in the various accounts given by the 
writers of the Gospels do but substantiate and prove the unconcerted truth of the New 
Testament. The want of sameness in some parts of these coffer panels supplies a 
like illustration, the contrarieties in each being executed with absolutely the same 

S' 



52 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



spirit and mannerism. On the York panel traces of vermilion and gilding are still 
visible, and it may be reasonably supposed that if the brown stain with which it has 
been daubed could be safely removed, more of this adornment might be brought to 
light. In the Kensington example St. George wears a pig-snouted bassinet, with its 
attachment of flowing camail, a form of defensive headgear which was in vogue here 
during the reign of Richard II., and of which numerous illustrations occur in the 
Harleian manuscripts dealing with the Campaign in Ireland in 1394. In the York 
carving St. George's bassinet is plain and unvisored. Both panels exhibit St. George 
as wearing over his armour the belted and tight-fitting surcoat, an earlier form of 
garment than the loose tabard which appears in the Harleian illuminations referred 
to. In the Kensington panel faint traces of dagging may be observed round the lady's 
dress, and sleeves of St. George ; in the York example the dagging exists to a much 
greater degree and is even carried round the saddle-cloth and reins of the knight's 
charger (see note 12). The various incidents of the story are shown, as was 
customary in mediaeval work, in the same picture, and in both specimens the fight 
is concluded by the princess leading the wounded dragon into captivity. This rather 
irregular ending to the fable is supported by some of the ancient writers and is quite 
in accordance with the romantic traditions of the times. An old legend says that 
Princess Cleodolinda tied her girdle round the dragon's neck and " the dragon followed 
as it had been a meek beast and debonayre." The costume of the princess affords 
a fine exposition of the hanging sleeve which was so popular during the last quarter 
of the fourteenth century. Some portions of the carving on the panels have been so 
undercut as to separate them from the surface. These have mostly suffered from ill 
usage and have now disappeared. The tree-trunks are but stumps, and on the right 
hand of the York coffer what appears to be a basket of cabbages on the charger's 
back is merely the foliage of a tree with the stem broken away. A curious detail in 
the centre of this panel is a wattled border or fence round the tree which occurs 
underneath the lock-plate. The York coffer is purely secular in its design throughout, 
and shows no trace of religious influence, but rather of its having been commissioned 
by someone who exercised a knightly or warlike calling. It would never have been 
produced by order of the ecclesiastical authorities, though it may have been received 
as a gift or bequest, the form of which was not at all unusual in the Middle Ages. 
King Richard II. himself twice visited York: first in 1385 and afterwards in 1389, 
the latter occasion being for the purpose of settling certain differences between Church 
and Corporation. It is recorded that to the mayor, William de Selby, he presented 
his own sword, taken from his side, for the purpose of being borne before him and 
his successors in the mayoral office (see note 13). It is not known what gifts were 
made to Mother Church on this occasion, but the coffer in question, which has singular 
national characteristics, may have had some connection with this visit. 

The true nationality of the maker of these coffers is open to doubt, though there 
is every probability that they were executed in this country. In the South Kensington 



TILTING COFFERS 55 

example, which has been stripped, the wood has the appearance of being English oak, 
and there is a simplicity about the handling and workmanship which, while admitting 
the exceeding rarity of contemporary specimens, seems to point to home production. 
In the museum at Dijon is a carved wood retable, which is known to have been 
produced by Jacques de Baerze, a Flemish sculptor, in 1391, for the Church of the 
Chartreuse, and which displays a statuette of St. George habited in a manner wonder- 
fully like that on the coffer -front. The details of dress and equipment on these 
presentments of the Prince of Cappadocia illustrate absolutely the same period, but 
as regards style and execution the results are vastly, not to say nationally different. 
On the other hand, a survey of the fortified town which appears on the York and 
Kensington coffer-fronts will discover some singularly Flemish details (see note 14). 
Among a multitude of roofs and towers, crowded as only those Gothic towns which 
were cramped for safety within walls could be, several instances of " corbie " or 
" crow's-step " gables may be seen. These are mingled with houses fronted with 
tracery, resembling the somewhat later domestic dwellings which to this day remain 
at Bruges and other old towns in Flanders. The feature known as " crow's-step " was 
not introduced into England until a much later period, and then it rarely penetrated 
further than the eastern counties or the maritime fringe of England which lay nearest 
the Continent. It would be vain labour to search among the decreasing specimens in 
this country for so early a contemporary as those on the coffer-fronts, nor is it likely 
that any existed here before the Renaissance, though some resemblance may be seen 
in the rising battlements of certain buildings of the Perpendicular period, such as the 
gate -house of Oxburgh Castle, Norfolk, and some of the college gates at our 
Universities. Many illustrations containing " crow's-step " gables may be found in the 
manuscripts of the Travels of Marco Polo, and the Romance of Alexander, at the 
Bodleian Library, Oxford. These illustrations, in which the details have been 
rendered with remarkable accuracy, were executed by Jehan de Grise, a Frenchman 
who is supposed to have worked in England between the years 1338-44. The 
deduction from these considerations is either that the specimens in question were the 
work of an Englishman who had been influenced by architectural work which he had 
seen abroad, or else that of a foreigner residing in this country, and whose early 
impressions while working as a specialist for the wealthy classes were not entirely to 
be got rid of. In Poole's History of York a notice of the coffer there is given by 
Sir Samuel Meyrick, who suggests rather vaguely that the legend of St. George 
expresses allegorically the union of Henry V. with the French princess, that the town 
at the back represented Paris, and that the king and queen looking from the castle 
windows are anxiously watching the fate of their kingdom, the English Alliance being 
typified by the lion. It is interesting to note that the Kensington example has been 
traced back to Rufford Abbey, in Nottinghamshire, where the coffer of which it 
formed part was ruthlessly broken up, as a cure for craziness, which might probably 
with care have been rectified. 



56 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



At Harty Church, situated in a deserted spot in the Isle of Sheppey, is another 
tilting coffer that shows strong indications of having emanated from the same source 
as the two examples dedicated to St. George. It is a rather later work, and no 
Flemish influence is discoverable in its decoration, the slight architectural features 
which it displays being merely confined to some battlemented canopies on its uprights. 
The subject carved on the panel in this case is different, but similar mannerisms and 
handling are observable, and the basis on which the design is carried out is the same. 
On the front appears the representation of a tournament, the knights being armed 
cap a pie, and attended by their respective squires. An interesting detail may be 



211 



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DOVETAILING IN CONSTRUCTION OF HARTY COFFER 



SUPPOSED MAKER'S MARK ON HARTY COFFER 



noticed in the unbuckling of the vanquished knight's heaume by the blow of his 
adversary's lance. Trees are depicted as in the York and other examples, and the 
uprights are carved with figures in civil costume standing under simple architectural 
canopies. The constructive dovetailing of the stiles and front is curious, and there is 
what appears to be a maker's mark on the top surface of the right end transom. The 
lock has long since disappeared, and the coffer, which is a fine and nearly complete 
specimen, is not kept with that care which so valuable a relic deserves. Its date may 
be approximately placed between 1400 and Agincourt (see note 15). 

The tilting coffret in the South Kensington Museum, which is described as being 
of French nationality, is in more than one sense a debatable specimen (see note 16). 




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It belonged to the Peyre Collection, but all records of its acquirement by that 
antiquary are now lost. M. Peyre's extensive researches in England render it not 
at all improbable that the coffret may have been found in this country, and, indeed, he 
himself admitted that he believed some of his early specimens to be English. The 
roughness of its execution certainly gives this impression. The treatment of the trees 
which appear at each end of the panel is remarkably like any one of the three 
examples previously mentioned, but in the action of the charging horses the coffret 
bears a resemblance to the Bayeux tapestry which is striking and distinctly singular. 
Both the knights wear the heaume, and their legs are protected by tilting saddles of 
great length, upon which are displayed their armorial bearings, which appear also 
on their surcoats. The horses on this and the Harty coffer are armed with chamfrons, 
which do not appear in the two earlier specimens. 

A contemporary work exists in south-west Flanders, which to anyone who has 
studied it carefully, together with the three examples first mentioned, admits of little 
doubt that it was made by the same man. In the Cathedral of St. Martin, in the 
City of Ypres, stands what may be justly designated as the most nearly perfect tilting 
coffer in existence. This example not only possesses its original lock scutcheon and 
lid — an extremely rare thing with so early a specimen — but its further embellishment 
by tempera painting remains fairly intact. It must be remembered that most of these 




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FOURTEENTH-CENTURY KNIGHTLY COFFER IN YPRES CATHEDRAL 



60 ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 

coffers, if not all, were originally painted and gilt, and the conditions under which we 
now see them give only a partial idea of what their former splendour must have been. 
Decorative furniture of the Middle Ages presented a corresponding appearance to the 
restored magnificence of Saint Chapelle in Paris, but specimens which retain any 
sensible traces of this adornment are now of the utmost rarity. The carving of 
the Ypres coffer is rougher than either the York or Kensington examples, but its 
mannerisms and treatment are unmistakable. The stricken monster occupies the 
space beneath the lock-plate, as in the York coffer, and again a walled city is seen 
in the background. Above St. George appears the directing hand of the Deity, 
projecting from the clouds in a way highly suggestive of a modern indicator (see 
note 17). The uprights are carved with figures, male and female, in civil costume, 
standing beneath castellated canopies, and underneath these may be seen decayed 
traces of dragons or gryphons in compartments, as so often occur in our early 
examples (see note 18). The cross clamps at each end are coloured red and the 
ground between them white, thus indicating in an ingenious manner the armorial 
bearings of the patron saint. For many and obvious reasons this coffer could 
never have been made for the cathedral, though it has been used there as an 
almery (or strong-box for alms) for generations. This time-worn memorial with its 
broken colouring, standing in the mysterious light that penetrates the Cathedral of 
St. Martin, is one of the most impressive mediaeval antiquities of its kind that can 
be witnessed. 

Some interesting speculations might be indulged in concerning this Ypres coffer. 
Its nationality is not actually determinable, but its secular or military purpose can 
scarcely be doubted. Local history suggests further possibilities. In 1378 Pope 
Urban VI. proclaimed his famous crusade against the French, who had set up their 
own countryman, Clement VII., in opposition to his rule. England's assistance had 
previously been solicited by Philip van Artevelde, but without success. However, 
after the battle of Rosbecque, in which the Flemish champion was defeated and slain, 
an event occurred which decided this country to send aid to the sorely pressed men 
of Ghent, in their struggle against French domination. This was a special claim for 
help, made by Pope Urban, and it was responded to by an expedition, under the 
leadership of Henry Spencer, Bishop of Norwich, landing at Calais in 1383. Bishop 
Spencer appears to have been a pugnacious leader, and in spite of the advice of 
Sir Hugh Calverley, that (see note 19) all Flemings were good Urbanists, and the 
French all Clementists, he conceived the idea of uniting with the Ghentese against 
the whole power of France, and the rest of Flanders as well. Circumstances did not 
disfavour this policy, for the turbulent Flemings, when not engaged against a common 
enemy, seemed to desire nothing better than to fight amongst themselves. An entry 
was soon effected into Flanders, a breach of the peace followed, and the combined 
forces of England and Ghent laid siege to Ypres. Looking over the map one cannot 
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TILTING COFFERS 63 

successes. Dunkirk, Emenin, Poperinghe, Cassell, St. Venant, are all connected with 
victory. The English, however, never got into Ypres. Some good modern mural 
paintings which adorn the interior of its vast Town Hall give a stirring idea of the 
tremendous conflict which raged, and of the pride with which its inhabitants still 
regard the successful defence of its walls. The siege was bloody and prolonged, but 
at length came a startling rumour. It was noised among the besiegers that the King 
of France, with an army of 80,000 men, was advancing by forced marches to relieve 
the town. The combined camp of investment was hastily broken up, the men of 
Ghent returned home, and the English retreated on Bergues, which they had but 
recently conquered. From Bergues they decamped to Bourbourg, on the approach 
of the grand army of France, but at Bourbourg they were overtaken, and after a 
desperate resistance the scanty remains of the English force capitulated with the 
honours of war. One by one the strongholds occupied by the English were won 
back, and in most cases our countrymen obtained no such fair terms as those at 
Bourbourg. The short supremacy of England in Flanders was ended (see note 20). 
Can it be possible that the Ypres coffer was captured during this disastrous retreat, 
and was deposited as a thankoffering for the deliverance of the city in the Cathedral 
of St. Martin? Its elaboration and the want of iron binding and transport rings 
preclude the chance of its ever having been a military treasure chest in the ordinary 
sense of the word. But taking into consideration the pomp and grandeur with which 
such expeditions were undertaken, it is not unlikely that this wonderful strong-box, 
whose fellows remain in England, and whose date so nearly tallies with the events 
just mentioned, may have held English wealth, and been left behind, a veritable spoil 
of war. 

The tilting coffers which have been treated in detail all possess certain features 
which are absolutely identical. There is a very uncommon sort of chamfer running 
throughout the series, which appears on the framework of the lids, or the trays with 
which the coffers are fitted. They are all purely secular, not a sign of ecclesiastical 
tracery or sacred emblems appearing about them, and though slight changes may be 
noticed in the armour of the knightly figures, they are not more than might have 
occurred during the course of a very moderate lifetime. It should be interesting to 
the student of costume to note that the advancement in the armour depicted on the 
York coffer is supported by a corresponding increase in the fashion of dagging, both 
being a development of those which are shown on the Kensington panel. The 
undulations of the ground are represented in the York coffer and the Kensington 
fragment as being burrowed by animals. This does not happen in the other examples, 
but the treatment is distinctly alike, grass being indicated in every case by a double 
slit which is placed perpendicularly at intervals with conventional regularity. It is not 
intended for a moment to suggest that all specimens of this type extant emanated 
from one source. A comparison, however, with others that exist will only tend to 
strengthen the belief that the York, Harty, and Ypres coffers and the Kensington 



6 4 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



panel are by the same art worker. Directly a thing ceases to be obvious it is open 
to argument. The Kensington coffret, in spite of many similarities, seems to be less 
a creation of this hand than its prototypes. It hints rather at being a production from 
the same workshop, probably by an apprentice, and influenced by the master spirit. 
The Southwold coffer, which is of much later date and a different type altogether, will 
be dealt with further on. Other coffers of the tilting class might be mentioned. 




CARVED FIGURES OF ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON, AND LOCK-PLATE 
On the Flemish coffer in Southwold Church, Suffolk. Fifteenth century 



There is a large one made of walnut wood in the Cluny Museum, which is also of 
later date and vastly inferior workmanship. Here the defensive armour of the knights 
and their attendants includes the passe garde and plastron, while one of the figures 
wears an eagle as his crest. The lock is far finer than the coffer, being a superb 
piece of work. Ypres Museum, a deserted and unpretending gallery in a back-yard, 
also possesses a tilting coffer, which in design partially resembles that in the cathedral, 
but it is evidently by a different workman, and appears to be a free imitation executed 
at a later period. 




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TILTING COFFERS 67 

It should be mentioned that till well into the fifteenth century, dovetailing, when 
practised at all, was carried out in a singular manner, being worked perpendicularly 
down the inner part of the uprights, so as to be invisible from the front. The Harty 
coffer and a still older municipal treasure chest at Ypres are good specimens for 
reference. 

One more tilting coffer yet remains to be mentioned, but it is of an entirely 
different type, and indeed unique of its kind. This coffer, though originally an 
ecclesiastical possession, was located till some forty- five years back in the office of 
the Chancery Court of the Palatinate. The fifties were bad years for antiquities, and 








DOVETAILING OF FRONT AND SIDES WITH UPRIGHTS, IN THIRTEENTH-CENTURY 

COFFER, YPRES MUSEUM 

on the translation of the Chancery offices this coffer for a time disappeared. It was 
eventually found in ignorant hands and rescued by an eminent antiquary, in whose 
safe keeping it remains. By this means the coffer was undoubtedly preserved, as 
afterwards, thinking it well to get from the same warehouse some pieces of carved 
work which had been there with it, the rescuer found they had all been destroyed. 
This coffer has apparently been ornamented at one time all over with tempera painting, 
of which that inside the lid and a fragment on the tray is all that remains. The lid 
decoration is remarkable as affording a glimpse of its original history. On a green 
diapered ground is painted an array of four shields and a mythical incident, the subject 
of which is doubtful. The shields are blazoned as follows : — 

1. Gules, a cinquefoil or (or argent) ermine pierced (of the field?) within a 
bordure sable charged with bezants. 

2. Gules, a cross or (or argent) between four cinquefoils ermine pierced. 

3. England quartering France Ancient. (Here England is given preference. 
This is unusual, but the arms are given, among other instances, on the south porch 
of Gloucester Cathedral. Vide Woodward and Bennett's Heraldry.) 

4. Gules, a saltire or (or argent). 

In the centre of the lid is a sort of centaur, half man, half beast, who is running 
a tilt against a dragon. The tilting figure is hooded and wears no armour, excepting 



68 ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 

what may be taken for a brigandine on its body. At the extreme ends of the lid are 
the rampant figures of a lion and a gryphon. 

The arms on the first shield are undoubtedly those of Sir Richard d'Aungerville, 
a knight of old Norman family, father of Richard de Bury, who was Bishop of 
Durham during 1333-45. The second cannot be identified, but as the ermine 
cinquefoil is the chief bearing on the coat of dAungerville it also probably has to do 
with the Bishop's father. The third shield, England and France quarterly, was not 
adopted till 1340, consequently the coffer could not have been made prior to that date. 
The saltire on the fourth shield is probably argent and not or, and if so it is the 
coat of Nevill, Earl of Westmorland. The colour of the cinquefoils is the same 
as that of the saltire and may have probably resulted from some chemical change 
in the colouring, due to length of time. 

The dAungervilles appear to have been settled in Suffolk, and the birthplace of 
Sir Richard's son was adopted as his ecclesiastical name. Sir Richard d'Aungerville 
died during his son's infancy, and left him to the care of his uncle, a priest named 
Willoughby, who educated him. After a course of study at Oxford he entered the 
monastery at Durham (see note 21). Thenceforth his career was eventful and 
brilliant. He passed in quick succession from being tutor to Edward, Prince of 
Wales, to the post of Treasurer of Guienne. Here it is said he was able to shelter 
Isabella the Fair, Queen of Edward II., and her youthful son from the persecution 
of the Despencers. This may be received with caution, but it is beyond doubt that 
Treasurer Bury was pursued by their myrmidons and forced to take sanctuary in 
Paris. His adherence to the young Prince was not without its reward, for on the 
accession of Edward III. his career of continued prosperity was unbroken. He 
passed rapidly into a variety of appointments, including Treasurer of the Wardrobe, 
Archdeacon of Northampton, Keeper of the Privy Seal, and Ambassador at Rome, 
eventually being elevated to the Bishopric of Durham. The list of his honours is 
immense and does not stop here. In 1334 he was appointed Chancellor of England, 
and in 1336 High Treasurer, which post he continued to fill till his death in 1345. 
Bishop de Bury was an indefatigable collector of books, and it is said that his agents 
collected for his library more books than all the other bishops of England possessed 
put together. His retinue was splendid and his manner of living sumptuous. On 
his elevation to the bishopric he entertained at a magnificent banquet the King and 
Queen of England, and King Baliol of Scotland, besides numbers of prelates and 
the northern nobility. He placed all the shipping of the Palatinate at the service of 
Edward for passage of troops during the Scotch wars, and furnished at his own 
expense twenty men-at-arms and twenty archers. It is even said that he appropriated 
the royal sturgeon for his table. He died full of honours and worn out on the 14th 
of August, 1345, and was buried on the 21st in the cathedral. Among the various 
objects mentioned at the funeral ceremony are " two coffers," which the sacrist 
claimed as his right with other effects. Amongst his personal belongings are 



TILTING COFFERS 



69 



mentioned many robes, one being a robe of "bloody velvet" which was sold to Lord 
Nevill, who reverently restored it to the Church. In spite of all this magnificence 
no monument was raised to the memory of Bishop de Bury, the coffer is almost the 
only memorial left of him. The Close and Patent of Bishop de Bury are the earliest 
extant in the Chancery at Durham, and differ little except in the variation of the 
episcopal style from those issued from the Royal Chancery (see note 22). 

Inside the coffer is a tray, which was once painted with a green pattern, the same 
as the groundwork of the lid. At the ends are twisted rings, for its transport by 
mules. The front, back, and sides, as well as the lid, are all composed of single slabs 
of oak, some inch and three-quarters thick. These are bound together by strong 
iron bands terminating in double splays. The lock has disappeared. 




FIFTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN ST. MICHAELS CHURCH, COVENTRY 



CHAPTER VI 
THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY 

IN the latter part of the fourteenth century a complete divergence had been 
arrived at between the architectural styles of England and France. Hitherto 
the latter country had conducted generally, by its example, the abstract principles 
which prevailed over a great part of Europe, and changes of style, though 
gradual, had been fairly synchronous. The advent in England, however, of a purely 
national style (the Perpendicular) appeared to indicate that the leadership of France 
was declining. This in fact was so, and the leadership was only reasserted some 
hundred and twenty years later by the imitation of the antique which the French 
conceived a strong predilection for during their invasions of Italy. 

The divergence of styles on the opposite sides of the Channel produced some 
singular contrasts. The French Rayonnant had been contemporary with our own 
Decorated, and the two styles were nearly allied, though the former was not eventually 
carried so far. The waving lines which mark our English geometrical tracery are 
absent in the French style. It was not until the rectilinear had been established here 
for over a quarter of a century that French architecture followed in our wake, breaking 
forth into that florid succession of waving curves which procured for the style the 
appellation of Flamboyant. A comparison should be made between international 
examples of this period. The crumbling fragment of a French coffer-front dating 
from the end of the fourteenth century exists to-day in the South Kensington Museum 
(see note 23). The workmanship of this is as fine as anything of its kind which can 
be seen on the Continent, and though a mere wreck and hopelessly decayed, enough 
remains to give an idea of the pitch of magnificence to which work of this class could 
be carried on the surface of a single panel. The tracery, which shows but very slight 
inclination towards the Flamboyant, is fashioned by a series of most exquisite curves 
into representations of the national fleur-de-lis backed by a range of mullions. The 
cutting, where time and worm have spared it, is sharp, clear, and not too deep. 
The material used is walnut. If this specimen is compared with a purely English 
example of approximately the same date — the Faversham coffer, for instance — the vast 
distinction between national quality and handling is at once obvious. The English 

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piece is bolder and its leading lines are more pronounced, though it does not approach 
the French fragment in richness of detail or quaintness of invention. 

The fifteenth century showed a great increase in the manufacture of chests and 
other receptacles. In France alone the number of specimens remaining is simply 

marvellous. The Louvre, the Cluny, Orleans, and 
Troyes Museums all contain quantities of national 
work, the like of which it is absolutely hopeless 
to look for in any of our own institutions. Not 
only can numerous credences of the most beautiful 
design be studied, but further evidence can be found 
in an extraordinary series of diminutive pieces of 
domestic furniture which are carved in the subjects 
represented on the stalls of Amiens Cathedral. These 
stalls were executed about the commencement of the 
sixteenth century, the dates 1508 and 1521 being 
visible on them, but they 
are believed to have been 
designed some years pre- 
viously. It is said that 
most of the nineteenth- 
century counterfeits in 
which the French are so 
clever (credences, ar- 
moires, settles, and the 
like) are designed by the 
dealers from these little re- 
presentations of furniture. 
Not only in France, but in other countries fine French 

chests of the fifteenth century are to be found, if not 

exactly in abundance yet in sufficiently surprising numbers. 

The Victoria and Albert Museum possesses one or two 

excellent examples, quite apart from the gigantic Peyre 

Collection. Among the oak treasures at South Kensing- 
ton is a cabinet of Flamboyant work, which exhibits 

several rare and valuable features. In the centre is a 

figure of St. George in Gothic armour, above which are 

the remains of a rich canopy of pierced work. This 

piece has evidently been a chef d'ceuvre, and has the 

maker's mark on the inner side of both doors. Dublin 

and Edinburgh Museums also contain good specimens 

of this date. The output must have been enormous. 




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CREDENCE, SCULPTURED ON THE STALLS 
OF AMIENS CATHEDRAL 




FIGURE OF ST. GEORGE ON FRENCH 
CABINET OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY 



In the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington 



72 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 




MAKER'S MARK ON FRENCH CABINET 

OF FIFTEENTH CENTURY 

In the Victoria and Albert Museum 
South Kensington 



Now, in all our national museums English work is but scantily represented, a Gothic 
piece being of the greatest rarity. There can be but little doubt as to the prime 
reason for this. Our own history of civil war and consequent demolition is not 

singular enough to account for the lack of early examples. 
The corroding nature of the climate may be partially 
f// responsible for the disappearance of many, but the fact 

/ .& % remains that work of this kind must have been produced 

abroad in much greater abundance than in our own 
country. So great indeed was the influx of foreign work 
that Richard III. endeavoured to promote his popularity 
by creating a statute forbidding " certain merchandises to 
be brought into this realm ready wrought." "Cupboards" 
are specified in this Act amongst other things, inasmuch 
as "by reason thereof the people of strange countries 
where the said wares be made be greatly occupied and 
increased and the said artificers in this realm greatly 
impoverished, and without the King's grace showed them 
in this behalf are like to be undone for lack of occupation 
... on pain to forfeit all the said wares so brought into 
this realm contrary to this Act, or the value of the same, 
in whose hands they or any of them shall be found, the one half of such fines and 
forfeitures to be paid to the King, and the other half to him or them that shall seize 
or pursue for the same action of debt, by writ or bill at the common law, or by bill 
or plaint, after the custom of the city or town where any such fines, forfeitures, and 
penalties shall hereafter happen to be or fall, and that the defendant in such action be 
not admitted to wage or do his law, nor that any protection or essoin of the King's 
service shall be allowed for any such defendant" (see note 24). 

During the fifteenth century Germany was prolific in the manufacture of carved 
receptacles, many of them of great size and covered with ironwork, which often took 
the form of vine leaves and tendrils. A fine collection of works of this class may 
be seen in the museum at Nuremberg. The armoire in Munich Cathedral has already 
been noticed, and others no doubt could be found. Of early Dutch work little is 
known or remains. Such specimens as the fifteenth -century hutches in the Ryx 
Museum at Amsterdam, and the very similar panels in the cathedral screen at 
Haarlem seem to indicate that the work was either executed from German designs, 
or was much influenced by German art of the period (see note 25). 

There appears to have been no regular importation of carved woodwork from 
Germany into England, though a large trade in ironware was done by the merchants 
of the Hanseatic League. A great many of the locks and hinges which adorn our 
fifteenth- and sixteenth-century cabinets and hutches were without doubt imported to 
the Steelyard, until German merchants were eventually shut out by order of Elizabeth 




CABINET IN Till' VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM, SOUTH KENSINGTON 

Northern French. Late Fifteenth Century 




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in 1597. Holland and Flanders, however, received a good share of German wood- 
work, and it is probable that the cupboards at Amsterdam just mentioned were 
importations from the Rhine provinces, and were actually of German workmanship. 

An immense quantity of work was produced in Flanders during the fifteenth 
century, partaking of both French and German characteristics. In the Steen Museum 
at Antwerp (once Alva's old citadel) a good collection of coffers and sideboards has 
been gathered. Here also a unique curiosity may be seen in the shape of a diminutive 




T^'ca'R 



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CARVED DOOR ON FIFTEENTH -CENTURY CABINET 
In the Ryksmuseum, Amsterdam 



Gothic chest of this period, obviously a prentice's model. " Flanders chests " still 
exist in use in England, though they are not to be found in any considerable number. 
Two of the most interesting examples remain at Southwold, in Suffolk, and East 
Dereham, in Norfolk, while a very beautiful and curious hutch of Flemish work is 
preserved in the Church of Minehead, Somersetshire. A noted Flanders chest of 
beautiful workmanship formerly existed at Guestling Church, in Sussex. It was many 
times engraved, and appeared in Parker's Glossary of Architecture and other archaeo- 
logical works. This chest has now totally disappeared, and more than thirty-seven years 
ago, when the present rector first entered upon his incumbency in this parish, a portion 
only of one of the panels remained. It is not known whether someone walked off 
with this or whether the clerk burnt it ; at all events the last vestige of the Guestling 
chest has now gone. It appears to have been an elaborate production, buttressed, 
with Flamboyant panels, not to be distinguished, except by its traditional title, from 
the beautiful works executed in France at the same date. The Southwold piece is in 
some respects more uncommon. It has a long carved front decorated with wheels of 
Flamboyant tracery, while in a small compartment under the lock-plate is a representa- 
tion of St. George slaying the dragon, executed with mediaeval mannerism and rude 



7 6 



ANCIENT COFFEES AND CUPBOARDS 




SACRED MONOGRAM ON CABINET IN THE 
STEEN MUSEUM, ANTWERP 



vigour. The situation of this example is in itself interesting as affording collateral 
evidence of its origin. The district around Southwold bears evidence of Flemish 
occupation. Names of both places and inhabitants often betray an undoubted Flemish 

source, while it is known that Flemish 
settlements were formed about here from 
time to time after the tyranny and pre- 
sumption of the national trade-unions had 
brought about the inevitable decay of 
prosperity. This coffer may have been 
executed in the neighbourhood by one 
of the immigrants, and our patron saint 
placed on it, either by order or by way 
of compliment. The apparent date of 
the coffer coincides with the fittings of 
the interior of the church, which may be 
rather late in the fifteenth century. It 
should be mentioned that the rood screen, 
a most beautiful piece of carved and 
painted work, shows in parts an evident leaning towards Flemish design, a tendency 
which is not uncommon upon our East Coast. The Southwold coffer, unfortunately, 
is missing its base, having been cut down and repaired by some journeyman black- 
smith, in wood. In connection with this coffer a detail may be noticed which should 
be of assistance in "placing" its proper period. The earlier forms of dovetailing 
when used in the construction of boxes were invariably carried perpendicularly down 
the thickness of the stiles, so that this method of joining was not perceptible when 
the lid was closed. In the Southwold coffer the dovetailing is multiplied, being 
formed by numerous small V-shaped intersections of the front and sides, all of which 
are perfectly visible from the outside. This mode of construction does not appear to 
have been used in English work till about the year 1500, but bearing in mind the 
more advanced state of things on the Continent, it seems not improbable that 
the more recent method may have been imparted at a rather earlier time by 
foreign workmen. At all events neither tlje architectural details nor the headpiece 
of St. George appear to be of so late a date as that just mentioned. We have, 
however, only a very limited number of these examples to work upon, and hence it 
is uncertain when the method was changed. The Flanders chest in the Church 
of East Dereham, in Norfolk, belongs to the time of Henry VIII., and will be 
described among the specimens of the sixteenth century. 

The Minehead hutch is a work of English shape, but with Flemish details. It is 
carved on both back and front, and was evidently intended to stand in the centre of 
a room. Two of the panels are carved with heraldic shields. One the Arms of 
England quarterly with France 1405- 1603, tne other a dolphin surrounded by three 




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French, Fifteenth Century 




PANELLING BEARING ST. ANDREW'S CROSS 

On settle in the possession of Arthur Radford, Esq., Hillingdon 
Scotch. End of the Fifteenth Century 



THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY 79 

mullets. The initials " j. m. c. " and the emblems of the Passion are interlaced with 
the tracery, while the doors exhibit a traceried rose and the eagle of St. John. The 
doors were once furnished with strap hinges, which have now been discarded for rough 
clouts. Underneath are two drawers carved with flamboyant tracery. The date of 
this piece is probably late in the fifteenth century. 

The gilt and painted cassones of the Italians differ essentially from anything else 
which was made in Europe during this period. Work of a Gothic character was only 
produced in the north of Italy, where it was seldom free from classic details. The 
elaborate stamped and wrought ironwork with which many of the North Italian 
productions are furnished frequently show distinct German influence. An exceedingly 
interesting coffer, or the remains of one, for it has been fearfully restored, may now 
be seen in Fonnereau Hall, Ipswich. Its front is boldly carved with figures in 
mediaeval costumes, carrying halberds and lanterns, and one of them a two-handed 
sword. At the back of these figures is the representation of a curtain, depending by 
rings from a rod, and treated precisely in the same formal way as a "linen panel." 
The whole piece in its original state was gilt, and must have presented a very splendid 
appearance, but it has been carefully "squared up" in the Churchwarden Period, and 
little is now left except the front and ends. On the latter are carved heads in 
medallions. Three keyholes now exist in the front panel, but evidently two of these 
are of later make, one of them being cut clean across the features of one of the 
halberdiers. The centre, which is the original keyhole, is placed in the mouth of a 
mask. 

A woodcut of this coffer in its original state was inserted in Clarke's History 
of Ipswich, published 1830, where it is stated that the chest was then in the Moot Hall 
of the borough, and in it was deposited the records of the Corporation, the keys being 
kept by four clavigers. This coffer is most probably of North Italian work, and 
dates from the commencement of the sixteenth century. 

Spanish chests of the fifteenth century are extremely scarce. They are seldom 
without a semi-Mooresque suggestion, and mostly have an elaborate arrangement of 
drawers and shutters which seem to render them a sort of chest and cabinet combined. 
Although the lines of French and Spanish ultra- Flamboyant decoration are remarkably 
similar, the distinctions of construction in their national manufactures, as well as other 
important details, are sufficiently obvious (see note 26). The carving on their 
productions was also covered with gesso, which was gilded and coloured. Curiously 
enough, the elaborate painted subjects with which many of the Spanish chests are 
adorned are mostly executed inside the lid, and though more likely to be thus 
preserved, yet rendered the object less decorative as a whole when closed. Spanish 
work is almost as distinctive as Italian, but stands quite alone, for unlike the latter it 
exercised no influence on the rest of Europe. In the sacristy of Burgos Cathedral is 
preserved an old iron-bound coffer, said to be the identical one which was used by the 
Cid in his somewhat doubtful transaction with the Jewish financiers. This, however, 



8o 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



like many Spanish relics, may be regarded as extremely unlikely, the piece in all 
probability dating from later mediaeval times. 

Actual evidence of earlier material may be scanty, but of the fifteenth century a 
vast quantity of work yet remains which can be seen and handled. Occasionally fresh 
specimens come to light, though rarely, but it may be taken for granted that furniture 
of the Gothic period is now never discovered in its original or untouched state. 
Additions, or more likely extensive dilapidations, have in every case taken place, and 
the piece is either grievously shorn or else half modern. With all this plentitude of 
fifteenth-century work yet remaining, English chests of architectural design are very 
scarce, cabinets still scarcer, while armoires are to be counted only by units. A fine 
armoire of Perpendicular design exists in the vestry of York Minster, and two painted 
almeries in Carlisle Cathedral. A few cupboards or credences also remain in private 
hands, but their number is inconsiderable. The York armoire is rather flat in design, 
with few mouldings, though what decoration it has is purely Perpendicular in design. 
It has an embattled cornice, and the doors work on elaborate strap hinges. The 
ironwork resembles many fittings which may be found in other parts of the cathedral. 
The armoire has unfortunately been much cut down at the base, probably owing to 
decay accelerated by contact with a damp stone floor. Indeed, so much has it been 
shorn that one of the hinges (that on the lower part of the left-hand door) has 
completely disappeared. The right-hand portion is closed by a long shutter extending 
the whole height of the armoire, and was evidently intended to contain a crozier. 
This is probably almost the only English armoire of the fifteenth century in 
existence. 

The fifteenth century is responsible for a number of vagaries in decorative 
carving, Germany and Flanders being prolific originators in this respect, the 
subjects representing chimeras being not always of the most refined description. 
The fifteenth century also saw the rise of that remarkable species of decoration 
known as the "linen panel." Springing into existence most probably in France, 
this curious feature speedily became fashionable throughout Flanders, England, and 
Germany. It was accompanied during the change of the century by another type 
of decoration, the "scroll pattern," or as the French term it parckemin, from its 
resemblance to an unrolled strip of that material. In Scotland a form of decoration 
was employed which, while being less flowing and graceful, suggests a comparison 
with the other just mentioned. St. Andrew's cross was carved in relief across the 
panels of chests and other articles of furniture, the spaces between being cusped and 
ornamented with fruit and flowers in conventional forms, even human heads being 
occasionally inserted. The easy adaptation of the scroll pattern to the Scottish 
national device was no doubt responsible for the first suggestion of this type. The 
workmanship of such specimens is usually of a coarse kind and cannot approach that 
of Flemish contemporaries. In England the scroll pattern developed into a stiff and 
somewhat meaningless decoration, clearly manifesting a decline in art. 




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THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY 



83 



English chests of the fifteenth century exhibiting Perpendicular tracery are but 
rarely met with. At first sight this seems difficult to account for, but it must be 
remembered that the civil wars, in a great measure, destroyed our industries, while 
during the reign of Henry VII., when peace was established, the linen-fold decoration 
seems to have almost superseded the fashion of ornamenting our chests and cupboards 
with architectural designs. 

The want of English traceried chests of this period is rendered still more puzzling 
by the discrepancies which occur in the works of some of our best-known authorities. 
For instance, a chest in the Chapter House at Oxford, which is described by Parker 
as being in the Perpendicular style, is really of French make and Flamboyant design. 
Other specimens, like the almery at Coity, in Glamorganshire, which are, in some sort, 
Perpendicular in design, were evidently made at the very end of the period, probably 
about Henry VIII.'s time, and only belong to those survivals which are to be found in 
remote districts. At Coventry, however, may be seen a fine traceried English coffer 
of the Perpendicular period, and the remains of another. The first-mentioned, which 
is in St. Michael's Church, is probably of the time of Henry VI. It is a large and 



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CHEST IN THE POSSESSION OF H. JEAFFRESON, ESQ., M.D., WANDSWORTH 
Late tilteenth or early sixteenth century 



8 4 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



bulky piece of furniture, and is in a good state of preservation, excepting for a thick 
coat of paint. It has always had three locks, blocks for the support of the plates 
being left between the mullions carved on the front. The uprights are beautifully 
carved with a lattice pattern filled in with foliage. A swan holding an orb also 
appears on the right-hand upright, and a gryphon or sphinx on the left ; above them 
are roses. The conjunction of the swan and roses may have some political significance. 
The White Swan was a Lancastrian badge, descending from Margaret Bohun, first 




WINGED FIGURE ON FIFTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER 
In St. Michael's Chinch, Coventry 



wife of Henry IV., to her son and grandson, Henry V. and Henry VI. Margaret of 
Anjou, Queen of Henry VI., held her court at Coventry, which town throughout the 
wars proved loyal to the Red Rose, and the coffer in St. Michael's Church probably 
dates from the brief period of her ascendance in the struggle (see note 27). The ends 
of the coffer have a cross grille of ten bars. Beneath a canopy under the central 
lock-plate are the figures of a king and queen. Two figures almost precisely like 
these may be seen on a central boss of the groined ceiling to the entrance gateway to 
St. Mary's Hall. In each case the action is the same. The king holds an orb in his 
left hand, and raises his right towards the queen's crown. Local tradition states that 
the subject represents the Deity crowning the Virgin Mary (see note 28). This may 
not be unlikely, and the duplication would seem to point to the coffer having originally 
been made for St. Mary's Hall, the lapse of over four hundred years only resulting in 
its translation to the shadow of the church on the opposite side of a very narrow street. 




ARMOIRE IN THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM 

German. Fifteenth Century 







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THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY 91 

It is strange that such rare and interesting relics as this coffer should not be mentioned 
in local guides or descriptions. They never are, unless some special history is attached 
to them, and then often unduly so. The plain and late chest used in the same church 
in connection with Sir Thomas White's Charity has been many times noticed and 
described, while its infinitely finer and rarer companion is passed over unnoticed. 

The piece in St. Mary's Hall is the remains of a fine coffer of entirely different 
character and perhaps slightly later date. It was converted into a sideboard during 
the seventeenth century, and at the same time embellished with two caryatides and 
a carving of the town Arms. One of the terminal figures has now gone, as well 
as other portions, and the whole thing presents a nondescript appearance. Shaw 
mentions another chest with precisely similar details as standing in another part 
of the hall, and states that the armour used in the annual processions had been 
kept in it ever since the Restoration. The armour now hangs aloft on the Musicians' 
Gallery, and the second chest has totally disappeared. 

Some excellent specimens of fifteenth- and sixteenth -century credences and cup- 
boards are possessed privately. The collections of Sir Charles Lawes-Wittewronge, 
Bart. ; Morgan Williams, Esq., of St. Donat's Castle, Glamorganshire ; The Hon. 
Mr. Justice Eady ; Edward Barry, Esq., of Ockwells Manor ; and Seymour Lucas, 
Esq., r.a., contain several examples. The fifteenth-century armoire at York — perhaps 
the only one remaining — is one of the rarest of our ecclesiastical possessions of this 
date. Two almeries in Carlisle Cathedral also belong to the same period. The latter 
are painted with conventional representations of the thistle, and have long strap-hinges 
with pierced ends, under which may be traced remains of crimson velvet. One 
of these almeries is painted round with a border of rosettes, inclosing the initials 
T. G., probably those of Thomas Gondibour, who was Prior in the latter part of 
the fifteenth century. 

In the Parish Church of Louth, Lincolnshire, is a fine cupboard dating from 
the latter part of the fifteenth century. This piece of furniture has the rare 
advantage of possessing a history which is in some sort known. To this day the 
piece is called by the name of "Sudbury's Hutch," and it is said to have been 
given to the church by one of the vicars of Louth. Two vicars of that name held 
office in Louth during the fifteenth century, viz. John Sudbury, who was incumbent 
in 1450, but the date of whose institution has not yet been discovered, and 
Thomas Sudbury, who succeeded the former on his resignation in 1461. Thomas 
Sudbury died on the 18th of September, 1504, and may be regarded, without doubt, 
as the donor of the hutch. A bequest to "Sudbury Hutche in Louth" occurs in 
the will of one Jarrat Allandale, tanner, dated 26th January, 1586, which directs 
that forty shillings shall be " imployed according to the will of Vyckar Sudbury to 
the benefit of the poore people in Louth " (see note 29). From this and other 
references which crop up in old documents, it is evident that the hutch was used 
for charitable purposes. Various entries occur in the Wardens' Accounts, by which 



92 ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 

we learn that the hutch was used for keeping money in as well as doles of coals 
and candles. It also appears, from certain items, to have been repaired in 1565 
and 1666. In the latter year the sum of five shillings was disbursed to "Goody 
Blackey for a piece of wood," and fourteen-and-fivepence was also "payed Shorte 
for works about Sudbury Huch." This most valuable and interesting relic is in 
a fair state of preservation, and retains all its original ironwork. It possesses few 
architectural details, and the carving shows strong indications of the Renaissance. 
The doors are carved with heads of the reigning sovereign and his queen, evidently 
Henry VII. and Elizabeth of York. That of the king, with its long, straight nose, 
cunning smile, and clipped hair, bears a great resemblance to the portrait of 
Henry VII. in the National Portrait Gallery. Over the heads are semi-circular 
arches with Gothic spandrels. The panel between the doors is ornamented with 
a shield charged with a rose and supported by two animals, the whole being 
surmounted by a crown. The device on the shield is probably the badge of the 
combined York and Lancastrian Rose, crowned (see note 30). The sinister 
supporter is clearly a talbot, and, judging from his tail, the dexter must be a lion, 
though a queer specimen, indeed except for the tail, he would appear to be meant for 
a boar. The custom of carving portrait heads on the doors of cabinets continued 
well into the sixteenth century. During the reign of Henry VIII. it was very 
prevalent, and it continued to be carried out, in some instances, even during the 
reigns of Elizabeth and James I., though geometrical inlay and strap-moulding 
had almost entirely superseded it. The heads were likewise more grotesque and 
barbarous in execution, and lacked the decorative qualities of the earlier style. 
The Louth specimen is one of the earliest known, and in spite of its tendencies 
towards the Renaissance, there is a true Gothic flavour about the treatment of 
the heads, their ornaments, and the long flowing tresses of the queen. This 
example should be compared with the later specimen of similar character in the 
collection of Mr. Morgan Williams. 

Louth Church also possesses a strong iron-bound Peter's Pence box, which will 
be dealt with in the chapter on Plain Coffers. 




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COURT CUPBOARD TEMP HENRY \ III 

In the collection of Sir Charles Lawes-Wittewronge, Bart. 



CHAPTER VII 
THE FIRST HALF OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY 

TO attempt a complete description of the change which took place at the 
close of the fifteenth century in the decoration of woodwork would be to 
write a history of the Renaissance. The first efforts of the Renaissance 
were purely Italian. Guizot calls it a breath from the grand old pagan 
life of Greece and Rome, and this sums up in a nutshell the revolution that 
dawned about the junction of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. As usual, the 
change was inducted by the French. The victory of Foronovo not only forced 
a passage for the French back to their native country, but (strange anomaly) 
carried back the style of the vanquished across the Alps. Later campaigns also 
contributed their share, and the departure from the pointed styles was confirmed. 
At first the changes were merely ornamental, structural differences being but 
slowly overcome. As yet the Gothic shell was only trimmed with Italian ornament, 
often intermingled with details of the previous style. There is no doubt that in 
England royal patronage was one of the prime causes of the great influx of 
Italian artificers which followed. Then came the storm of religious reform and the 
Italian immigrants disappeared, leaving their methods to be replaced by others of 
a more national type. 

Before the fifteenth century had passed the custom arose of carving heads upon 
the doors of hutches and cupboards. This custom became popular during the first 
half of the succeeding century, but with this exception. Whereas the heads were 
formerly surmounted by arches or canopies, they were now inclosed within roundels 
or medallions. These medallions frequently retained a trace of the old Gothic 
feeling by being surrounded with ornaments of an earlier type, such as the spandrels 
on the carved portrait of Henry VIII., by Holbein, in Sudeley Castle. The heads 
themselves were often very grotesque, especially those emanating from France and 
Flanders. At times, however, as has been just noticed, portraiture was attempted, 
and occasionally a piece will be found, the panels of which represent with considerable 
force and character the features of various members of the family for whom it was 
executed. 

Though the tall many-storied buffets of the fifteenth century had ceased to be 

O 97 



98 ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 

made, hutches and credences continued their old outline, and in many respects the 
same details. There is a well-known French credence in the Cluny Museum, in 
which the combined modes of decoration are pushed to the verge of excess. Other 
French Gothic chests of the sixteenth century exhibited there have the guilloche 
carved on their stiles. The almery in Coity Church, Glamorganshire, is also a good 
national instance of local lingering of the old style. In outline and design it is 
decidedly Gothic, but Gothic that instinctively reminds us of the staircase at Christ- 
church College, Oxford. There is none of the freshness of Mr. Barry's credence 
about it. The coped and crocketed lid is exceedingly rare, but in spite of this, and 
the tracery with which the piece is lavishly adorned, the circular wreaths which 
surround the sacred emblems surely announce a date not prior to Henry VIII.'s. 
time. The thinness of the framing is singularly noticeable and would seem to place 
the almery towards the end of Henry's reign, after which the framework of panelled 
receptacles was considerably reduced in size. 

Some curious anomalies resulted from the intersection of two such opposite styles 
as the last Pointed and the Classic revival. The town-made or East Coast specimen, 
with little sign of anything save the fresh vigour of the Renaissance, is often older 
than the survival of the Gothic that lingered on the borders of Wales or in the West 
Country. Yet it is rare to find pieces of the date of Sudbury's Hutch which exhibit 
tokens of the change. In this case the position of Louth on the eastern coast-line 
may again supply the explanation. This piece appears to have been bequeathed by 
Vicar Sudbury, and to have been in use during his lifetime, Sudbury died in 1504, 
more than a year after the decease of Henry's queen, whose portrait appears on 
one of the doors. This would place Sudbury's Hutch, by the lowest computation, 
at the very beginning of the sixteenth century, though it may actually be some years 
earlier. The hutch owned by Mr. Morgan Williams is very similar in outline, but 
its decoration is mainly Gothic in character. The pierced window in the centre and 
the strap ornaments on the doors are relics of the fifteenth century, nevertheless the 
portraits are inclosed in roundels and are habited in the costume of Henry VIII.'s 
time. This piece was discovered in an out-of-the-way part of Devonshire some few 
years back. 

Another fine instance of the fusion of the styles may be seen in Mr. Barry's 
credence. This is unique, and one of the most beautiful pieces of antique furniture 
in existence. In it the finesse of the best Italian work mingles with our last period of 
Gothic. The low cupboard is supported on scaled and moulded legs, and the recess 
beneath is canopied with two depressed arches with a pendant between them, while 
above these is a roping with a double twist running round the structure. The cupboard 
possesses only one door, like many pieces of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 
The door and the panels on either side are bordered with a wide but very delicate 
moulding, the whole being surmounted by a Classic cornice decorated with leaf 
pattern. This credence was discovered by Mr. Seymour Lucas some few years 






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In the collection of Morgan Williams, Esq., St. Donat's Castle, Glamorganshire 
Height 3 feet 4 inches ; length 3 feet 




GOTHIC CREDENCE IN THE MUSEE DE CLUNY, PARIS 



Date about 1=00 




ALMERY IN COITY CHURCH, GLAMORGANSHIRE 

Sixteenth Century 



THE FIRST HALF OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY 103 

back in a very neglected condition at Hereford. It dates probably from the first 
quarter of the sixteenth century. 

In the same collection is a very interesting English cupboard of the time of 
Henry VIII. This, from certain indications, appears to have been merely a wall 
cupboard or locker, which was converted into a portable piece of furniture during 
the seventeenth century. On the front are two heads, evidently rough portraits of 
the original owners, and between them on the door are the initials A. W. and a barrel 
or tun, upon which a flower is climbing. The last was most probably a rebus on the 
owner's name, Walton for instance. The heads as well as the rebus are carved in 
very bold relief, as though thrusting themselves out from the surface of the panels 
Heads treated in this way are peculiar to the age and appear at no other time. They 
are to be met with in wall-panelling, but when placed on armoires or cupboards do 
not occur except on the upper doors. The method adopted was by leaving a raised 
plane, the outline of the head, and then fitting the wood from which the mask was 
carved upon it. By these means the features sometimes project a couple of inches 
from the surface of the panels. These heads may have been originally intended as 
handles, though, as the locks are spring fasteners in nearly every case, this may be 
regarded as doubtful. The mode of placing a single small door in the centre, as was 
so often done about this time, must have been exceedingly inconvenient. Articles of 
furniture so treated, however artistic, are of little practical value. The pin-hinge was 
again introduced about this time, though it was never arranged for the lids of chests as 
in the thirteenth century, but perpendicularly in the case of small doors of cabinets or 
cupboards. The locks and hinges of this period often have a decidedly Germanic 
appearance. Chests of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries often stood upon two 
detachable bars of wood, which extended from back to front and served as 
strengthening clamps when weighty articles were contained therein. 

One of the finest Flanders chests which we have in the country dates from the 
time of Henry VIII. It is preserved in the Church of East Dereham, in Norfolk, 
but was evidently not made for the position which it now occupies. On the lid is a 
brass plate engraved with the following inscription : — 

" As a token of Respect towards his Native Place, Samuel Rash, Eqre., on the 
1st day of Jany., 1786, Presented to the Church of East Dereham this chest for the 
Purpose of keeping together and Preserving the Deeds, Records, and other Writings 
belonging to this Parish. Tradition says this Curious Chest (and lock) is upwards of 
Four Hundred Years Old, was taken out of the Ruins of Buckenham Castle, and 
many Years since the Property of the Noble Family of the Howards, Dukes of 
Norfolk, and supposed to be used by them for Depositing their Money and other 
Valuables." 

Mr. Rash's amusing description is incorrect in many ways. The chest is un- 
doubtedly a piece of sixteenth-century work, which the costumes of the heavy 
Flemish figures, the mouldings, and ornamentation all abundantly testify. For the 



104 ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 

rest the chest was probably made for some City Guild, as the figures on its front and 
sides all hold symbols of the various arts and crafts. The figures are all female 
and stand beneath semi-circular arches, a baluster or impost of Italian design 
separating each. The lock, as is often the case, bears traces of an earlier style, being 
a most beautiful piece of purely Flamboyant art. Beneath the lock is a smaller panel 
than the rest, carved with a figure subject. The chest could never have been found 
as described. Its condition at the present time — over a hundred and twelve years 
since the inscription was engraved — being marvellously good and perfect. 

The coffer in Shanklin Church, Isle of Wight, which is so beautifully engraved in 
Shaw's book, is an instance of a conventual piece of furniture enriched with the 
fanciful lettering of the early Renaissance. The name of the original owner, Prior 
Thomas Silksted, with his initials, the Arms of the Priory, and the date, 15 19, appear 
on the front. This Thomas Silksted was forty-fifth Prior of Winchester, his office 
continuing from 1498 till his death in 1524. He was much in favour with Bishop 
Fox, and assisted that prelate to found Corpus Christi College at Oxford, and also to 
beautify Winchester Cathedral. The chapel bearing his name was built by him, and 
it is said that he is buried therein (see note 31). 

Linen panelling in all its various forms was freely used in the manufacture of 
cupboards and chests about this time. Its introduction has been erroneously attributed 
to Hans Holbein, who, by the way, was born in 1498, a date probably subsequent to 
the appearance of this decoration in England. Linen-panelled chests, early or late, 
can be obtained without difficulty up to the present day ; their importation and 
manufacture must have at one time literally glutted the market. Good cupboards of 
this kind, however, are scarcer, many of them having been broken up on any suspicion 
of craziness, the doors alone being saved. A perfect mania for destroying old 
receptacles seems to have existed till lately, even at the present time it is not wholly 
extinct. During what is known as the Abbotsford Period, and throughout the fifties 
much wanton destruction was committed. The portion which was decorated with 
carving was alone considered worthy of being preserved. It entered not into the 
shallow minds of these vandals that the parts must necessarily be more valuable when 
connected as a whole. The dealer, however, has at last learnt wisdom, and no longer 
dissects cupboards and chests for the sake of saving charges on the carriage. It is 
high time, for such ravages have reduced the number of untouched specimens 
appreciably, within the memory of man, and the probability of further discovery is 
now well-nigh hopeless. 

A very excellent linen-panelled cupboard of fine proportions is in the possession of 
Mr. Guy F. Laking. It is of French or Flemish workmanship, and apparently dates 
from the first quarter of the sixteenth century. This cupboard is said to have come 
from Plessis-les- Tours. The character of its fittings, however, indicates a date 
subsequent to the lifetime of the tyrannical builder of that den. 

The art of inlaying furniture with different coloured woods was first introduced 




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SIXTEENTH CENTURY CUPBOARD IN THE COLLECTION 
OF MORGAN WILLIAMS, ESQ. 

St. 1 >onat's Castle, Glamorganshire 
Height, 4 ft. 6 in. Length, 4 ft. 10 in. Extreme Width, 2 ft. ij in. 




SILKSTEDS COFFER, IN SHANKLIN CHURCH, 
ISLE OF WIGHT 



Dated 1519 
Hei^nt, 2 ft. 3in. Length, 4ft. 4A in 



Width, 2ft. :■' in, 



THE FIRST HALF OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY 1 1 1 

into England by Italian artists in the sixteenth century. It is doubtful if any of 
the earliest inlaid designs are the work of native artists. Cabinets so decorated are 
mostly protected by a falling flap and supported on detached stands, a new departure 
in shape, which sufficiently indicates their origin. 

The custom of covering trunks and caskets with Genoa velvet was also intro- 
duced into England during the sixteenth century. At Kimbolton Castle, Hunts, 
there still exists a travelling chest which once belonged to Katharine of Aragon, 
and which is covered with crimson velvet decorated with the queen's initials, K. R., 
surmounted by a crown. This chest has remained at the castle ever since Queen 
Katharine's translation from Bugden in 1535. 



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MEDALLION PANEL 
French early sixteenth century 



CHAPTER VIII 



THE LINEN PANEL 



DURING the Middle Ages, in almost every branch of Art, our ancestors 
appear to have been impressed with a sense of formal beauty existing 
in the folds and convolutions of their robes and garments. From this 
feeling seems to have sprung what is now known to us as the " Linen 
Panel," one of the last traces of Gothic art that loitered 
into the Jacobean period. So remarkable was this 
inclination, that we not unfrequently find the most pro- 
minent feature in mediaeval sculptures and paintings to 
be a very careful and minute elaboration of modelling 
of the details of drapery. Curiously enough, the garments 
of most early effigies are represented as though the figures 
are actually standing erect, and there is little doubt that 

they were in the first 
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living models in that 
attitude and afterwards 
laid prone, the incon- 





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NORMAN CAPITAL 

Bridlington Priory, Yorkshire 



DETAILS OF DRAPERY ON RECUMBENT EFFIGY 

OF ARCHBISHOP GREY, IN YORK MINSTER 

Thirteenth century 



sistency of the straight, parallel folds seeming to have 
attracted no unfavourable notice after the positions 
of the effigies themselves were altered. The repeated 
insistence of this quaint formality was not without 
its effect upon decorative design (see note 32). 

A tradition exists that the style originated in 
Flanders, the people of that country being the great 
manufacturers of fine linen during the fifteenth 
century. Now, as a matter of fact, the earliest 
types of linen - fold occur in France, and though 
variations of the pattern were used, as we know, ex- 
tensively in the case of dower chests (being evidently 
considered as a suitable decoration on receptacles 



112 



THE LINEN PANEL 



113 




for household linen), yet this may be considered as purely a chance circumstance, 
and not the influence of a particular industry upon design. Representative types 
of developed linen panelling were fully in vogue during the reign of Louis XI. 
(1461-83), and in one of the ancient illustrations to Froissart's 
Chronicles a fine specimen of a bench or settle, with simple linen- 
panelled ends, is to be seen (see note 33). This picture is described 
by Racinet, who states that "according to the custom of the time 
in which it was executed, the figures are not habited in the dresses 
of the period which they are supposed to represent, but in the 
fashions of Charles VII.," Louis' predecessor. Other authorities, 
with more certainty, attribute it to the work of a Flemish artist 
residing in Paris subsequent to 1460. The advent of the "linen 
pattern" in England dates from the time of Henry VII. (1485-1509), 
and its appearance in Flanders seems to have been contemporaneous, 
or at any rate very little earlier. It is most probable that the notion 
originated in France, the fashion later on being imported into this 
country, either through Flanders or direct, during the first few years 
of peace and international commerce in the early part of Henry's 
reign. Roughly speaking, the linen pattern continued to be used as a 
panel decoration for about eighty years in England and rather longer 
on the Continent ; and while Art generally assumed the florid 
grotesqueness of the Early Renaissance Gothic, conventionality in 
the treatment of draperies survived to a great degree. However, in the second 
half of the sixteenth century more stilted fashions in wearing apparel became the 
mode, the base skirt disappearing from male attire, while with female dress the 
introduction of the farthingale almost obliterated the existence of folds altogether. 
Whether any real influence can be traced from this, or whether both arose from 
a gradual but general degeneration of taste, it remains a fact that the most beautiful 
forms of linen panelling ceased to be produced, being replaced by incised patterns 
of infinitely less merit, both in design and execution. But in those days of difficult 
communication obsolete types and methods still lingered in the country, far away 
from the great towns, and it is not uncommon to find rough " farmhouse pieces " 
of a later date bearing strangely debased specimens of the linen fold and other 
early characteristics. 

The simplest type to be found, and one which was extensively used abroad, is 
fashioned in the form of a single fold. It is usually moulded in very low relief, 
and has a ridge running down the centre, the top and bottom edges of the napery 
being shaped to resemble a low ogee or "hare-lipped" arch, showing no returns. 
In a fine French MS. in the British Museum, executed about the year 1470, 
are pictured some exceedingly interesting and beautiful examples of furniture, panelled 
with this particular type (see note 34). One of these is a credence of graceful 
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TOMB IN THE 

CEMETERY, BOLOGNA 

From Pugin's Continental 
Sketches 



ii4 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



design, with a single door opening in the centre and a drawer underneath. It 
has an upright back, ornamented with a double row of three linen panels and 
surmounted by small statuettes carved at the top of the uprights. Another piece 
is a settle or bedstead (see note 35). This, like the former, has been drawn from 
the actual object, but though depicted in a different plate it is evidently, which is 
most interesting, one of the same set of furniture, the panels being of precisely 
the same pattern, as well as the ornamental crocketing at the top. In the Chronicle 
of Montstrelet, a Flemish MS. likewise in the British Museum, is a painting 
commemorating the interview of Joan of Arc with the Dauphin at Chinon. The 
walls of the apartment in which the event is taking place are represented as being 




\^v«" v< >^°-e~ 




FRENCH AND FLEMISH EXAMPLES 



covered with linen panelling of a similar pattern. It should, however, be mentioned 
that this illustration was not executed until late in the fifteenth century, some seventy 
years after the event, and gives not the Flemish fashions of 1430, but those of 
the date in which it was painted. 

A development of this plain type is formed by the addition of a couple of folds, 
through which the ogee ending is faintly suggested. 

A curious type, and one which is not common, is that which has the edges of the 
napery indicated by angular instead of curved lines. In these an almost imperceptible 
inflection in the edges is suggested by the elevations and depressions in the surface of 
the linen folds when viewed laterally. They are not unfrequently bordered with a 
diapered pattern, and the general effect is very elegant and pleasing (see note 36). 
Comparing the various specimens given with draped statuary of the mediaeval times 
one cannot help remarking how freely some Italian sculptures lend themselves to 




LINEN-PANELLED CUPBOARD 

In the possession of Guy F. Laking, Esq. 

This piece of furniture traditionally came from Plessis-les-Tottrs 

French. Early Sixteenth Century 



THE LINEN PANEL 



ii5 



the perfection of this species of ornament, in spite of the fact that Italy was never 
the home of Gothic art. 

As the linen-fold pattern progressed it became customary to enrich it with the 
addition of fruit or flowers in conventional forms, as well as fringe, tassels, etc. The 
specimens of carving on the Hispain or window shutters in the Mont de Piet6, at 
Malines, are a good example. At Louvain, also, the lobbies of the Church of 
St. Pierre are decorated with panelling of a very similar character, though the 
proportions are different. As regards the feature last mentioned, it is sometimes 




ANGULAR LINEN PANELLING IN THE 
author's COLLECTION 




LINEN - PANEL DOOR IN CUPBOARD 

In the collection of Edward A. Larry, Esq. 

The decorative bordering on the edge of the fold has never been finished 



puzzling to find a close resemblance between specimens in Flanders and others £>f 
English nationality undoubtedly existing in situ. It is likely, however, that if the 
actual objects themselves were not imported that Flemish workmen were, and with 
them Flemish designs, which would account in a great measure for the similarity 
just noticed. The origin of loose specimens is often extremely difficult to determine 
on this account. 

Not satisfied with ornamenting the wainscoting of their apartments with linen and 
other patterns, the effect was in many instances still further heightened by a lavish 
application of gold and colours. This would seem to be a very fair illustration of the 
phrase "gilding the lily," and though such as have remained so to our time are 
interesting from the fact of their being in an untouched state, their effect considered 



u6 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 




ARCHED LINEN PANEL 
On coffer in the Musee Historique, Orleans 



as a whole is less restful and pleasing than when the natural surface of the wood 

is retained. During their first freshness this exaggerated splendour must have 

been considerably more obvious. 

Differences of form and character might be multi- 
plied indefinitely, both as regards the linen panel and 
its accessories, but it will be sufficient to specify some 
of the most pronounced features. In the early days 
of English Renaissance a run of wainscoting thus 
decorated was sometimes surmounted by oblong panels 
carved with arabesques. Also it occasionally happened 
that the linen pattern was headed or inclosed with a 
Gothic cusped arch fitted to its framing. A magnificent 
roomful of the first may be seen at the " Neptune 
Tavern" (formerly a merchant's residence) at Ipswich, 

and specimens of the latter were extant till a few years ago at the " Marquis of 

Granby" at Colchester (see note 37). 

In some cases the upper edge only of the linen pattern was shaped or finished. 

This peculiarity is exhibited in those panels which in wainscoting were placed nearest 

the floor, it being probably only an instance 

of unwillingness on the part of the early 

decorators to spend too much labour on a 

portion of the work which was level with 

their ankles. A superb run of panelling, ex- 
hibiting this omission, remained, until a few 

years since, in a farmhouse of the fifteenth 

century at Kingstone, near Taunton. The 

house is now destroyed, but a portion of its 

contents has found a home in the Victoria 

and Albert Museum (see note 38). It con- 
sists of a single row of tall panels enclosed 

in their original framing, the top rail of 

which is carved and finished with Gothic 

roping, denoting the height to which the 

wainscoting was originally carried on the 

walls. This amounted to some thirty-eight 

and a half inches only, so that the panelling in question formed nothing more than 

what is now termed a dado. 

Some exceedingly fine specimens of the most ultra-developed types of linen 

panelling may be seen at the inn at Rye House, where they have evidently been 

removed from the ruined mansion adjoining. Much variety of design is displayed in 

these, there being barely two instances of absolute uniformity. The folds are undercut 




LINEN PANELLING 

From an old house at Kingstone, near Taunton. Now in the 
Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington 
These panels, which are bordered on the upper edge only, measure 
25 inches in height. The one depicted is 7! inches wide ; others, in 
which there are additional folds, measure oj inches in width. 



THE LINEN PANEL 



117 



to a great degree, and the whole development 
is so remarkable as to approach floridity. The 
singularly fantastic edges, in fact, suggest a 
likeness to the Elizabethan ruff. It is probable 
that they were made when this form of 
decoration had been pushed to the utmost 
and had reached the verge of its decline. 

A curious revival would appear to have 
taken place during the decadence of the linen 
pattern. For instance, at Hampton Court 
Palace (erected originally between the years 
1513-30) there are in the earliest portions of 
the Tudor building some specimens of flowing 
linen fold which are typical of the period, and 
appear to have been fitted there as panelling 
on its completion. In contrast to these we 
find that others of an earlier type, having a 
distinctly Gothic flavour about them, exist in 
their original position in that part of the 
Palace which was built during the reign of 
Elizabeth. Similar instances could be men- 
tioned. It may be argued from this that the 
latter example was nothing more than an 
ordinary Elizabethan style after all. This 
is not the case. When Elizabeth filled the throne the linen - fold decoration was 




LINEN PANEL AT RYE HOUSE 
Size 1 foot 2J inches X 8 inches 




PANELLING AT HAMPTON COURT PALACE 
Size of panel 21 x 10 inches 



u8 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



perishing, even in the country, while here the revival of a purely Gothic type occurs, 

singularly enough at a royal palace, the index and home 
of fashion. 

An unusual and rather remarkable feature is the 
division of the napery by a repetition of the edge folds, 
the conjunction of which forms a central ornament of 
Gothic design. 

The more debased types of linen pattern are hardly 

worth describing in detail, for when the animating spirit 

had departed the productions no longer became things 

of beauty. It is certain that linen panelling continued to 

be made in isolated cases as late as the first half of 

the seventeenth century, though at that time the style 

was completely out of vogue. These decaying efforts were usually either forced 

and vulgar, or else flat, and charged with a suspicion of some later design. They 

are even known to be found covered with Jacobean scoop moulding (see note 39). 




PANEL AT HAMPTON COURT 
Size 20X9J inches 




Vvc.v. V^»^_. 

FLEMISH LINEN PANEL IN AUTHOR'S COLLECTION 



The very last trace of what had once been the linen pattern crops up in the form 
of a grooved and faceted panel in the time of Charles II. It is almost unrecognisable 
in this phase, and needs no special description (see note 40). 

In common with most other things, the making of linen panelling nowadays has 



THE LINEN PANEL 



119 



undergone a change, it no longer being worked on the old system. The perpendicular 
ridges or folds are run out in lengths by machinery, and the edges finished after the 
material has been cut up into the desired sizes. It is needless to say that this 
mechanical method precludes to a great degree any chance of that delightful freedom 
which characterises the old work. 





FINIS OF THE LINEN 
PANEL 




DOUBLED LINEN-PATTERN PANEL 



LATE LINEN PANEL (DATED I 642) 

In the possession of Arthur Radford, Esq. 



CHAPTER IX 



PLAIN COFFERS 



~^ 



IT is occasionally no easy matter to assign a date to the plain iron-bound 
coffers which are used for municipal and ecclesiastical purposes. The earliest 
productions of this class remaining in our own country probably rank among 
those rude receptacles which are hollowed out from the trunks of trees, and 
their outer surface roughly dressed with the adze. Still, there is reason to believe 
that this primitive method of construction lingered in remote parts of the country 
till late mediaeval times, for some objects of this description bear vague evidences 
which would seem to assign them to that epoch. Others, however, are so barbarous 
in every way that no means of ascertaining their age can possibly be arrived at. 
An approximate date can hardly be guessed, but in the eyes of European civilisation 
they are regarded as being of very great antiquity. A good specimen of this kind 
standing in the ambulatory of Wimborne Minster is said to date from Saxon times. 
A coffer at Minster Church, in Kent, is said to have been given by William the 
Conqueror. Again, a joined specimen in Chichester Cathedral is assigned to Saxon 
times, and said to have been brought from the original foundation of the See at 
Selsea with other undoubted relics which exist in different parts of the building. 
Granted the strength of oral tradition, such legends can hardly be taken seriously. 
The Minster example is a late production of the roughest description, the only 

singularity of which is that its lid (a solid half 
of a tree-trunk) is of oak, while the shell of 
the box is composed of elm. The Chichester 
coffer is certainly a most peculiar relic, measuring 
eight feet eight inches in length, though only 
some sixteen inches in height and depth respec- 
tively. The character of its locks, however, 
sufficiently proves that its date is not earlier 
than the latter part of the fourteenth century, 
and may even be later. The real locks are three 
in number, besides two false locks which are 
placed alternately between the others. The 




LOCK-PLATE ON COFFER IN 
CHICHESTER CATHEDRAL 



1 20 




IRON-BOUND PETER'S PENCE BOX IN LOUTH CHURCH, 
LINCOLNSHIRE 

Sixleenth Century 




STRONG COFFER IN THE POSSESSION OF THE GLOVERS' COMPANY AT PERTH, N.B. 



PLAIN COFFERS 



121 



unusual shape of this suggests that it was originally intended to contain a 
crozier. 

In Durham Castle is a more than usually huge and massive iron-bound coffer 
of the debateable type. Circumstantial histories are always greedily received and 
easily believed about such relics, and many people assert that this is the original 
coffin in which the incorruptible body of St. Cuthbert was placed on his decease 
in the seventh century. This it certainly is not. The coffer has some connection 
with the saint's memory, but, unfortunately for the truth of the afore-mentioned 
theory, a description of the original coffin was written by one Reginald, a monk, 
in the twelfth century, not long after the saint's body was transferred to the Norman 
Cathedral and placed within the shrine of marble and gold built to receive it. 




MS, j 



— _ :>V 

THIRTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN CHOBHAM CHURCH, SURREY 



Again, at the time of the Reformation a very exact record was drawn up, which 
shows that on the destruction of the shrine the remains were broken open, and 
after examination were inclosed within a new coffer, which was then buried beneath 
the spot where the shrine formerly stood. Here they rested undisturbed till 1827, 
when the remains were again exhumed. The fragments of the original coffin and 
a case which had surrounded it were placed among the relics in the Chapter House, 
while the outer receptacle (that dating from the Reformation) was deposited in the 
Castle, where it can now be seen. There is no doubt whatever of the accuracy 
of this. The fragments of the original Saxon coffin have quite recently been 
taken from the drawers in which they had lain since 1827, and cleverly pieced 
together. Crumbling though they are, the incised figures of saints and inscriptions 
in Runic and Roman can still be seen on them. (See Chapter II.) It is to these that 
the student of Anglo-Saxon work must look. The ponderous sarcophagus in the 

R 



122 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



Castle buttery is some nine hundred years later. The coffer in question has an 
arched lid, and is literally sheathed in iron straps. What scanty evidence is visible 
in the way of detail gives additional testimony that the work is not older than 
the sixteenth century. 

In the crypt of Wells Cathedral is another of these so-called "Saxon" coffers, 
a work actually of late date, and of the rudest construction. In most cases can 
these Saxon cists be disproved, the name being applied by the ignorant to define 
something which is really beyond their comprehension. At Orleton, in Herefordshire, 
however, exists a coffer of the gouged-log type which can be more definitely dated, 
the character of its iron strap mounts showing that it belongs to the thirteenth 
or early fourteenth century. A plain coffer which has iron straps with trifoliated 




SIXTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER IN ATTLEBOROUGH CHURCH, NORFOLK 
Length 5 feet 6 inches ; height 1 foot 8 inches ; greatest height 1 foot 10 inches ; width 1 foot 10 inches 



terminations is preserved in Chobham Church, Surrey. This specimen has the pin- 
hinge and slightly moulded uprights, and undoubtedly dates from the thirteenth 
century. 

Plain iron-bound coffers exist in great plenitude all over the kingdom : Norfolk 
alone possesses a goodly share. At Attleborough is a coffer of this type with a 
sloping lid. It was formerly covered with leather, remains of which can be seen 
between the strap bands which cross it. At Blickling is another very interesting 
coffer, with a black-letter inscription remaining on it. Up North visitors to Cawdor 
Castle are shown a strong coffer in which it is asserted Thane William transported 
his treasure when the castle was built, in the middle of the fifteenth century. The 
box is really one of the so-called "Armada" type, and was probably made some 
century and a half after its supposed date. 

Two ancient and exceedingly interesting specimens of the iron-bound strong-box 
remain in the Chapel of the Pyx, at Westminster. This chapel, the ancient treasury 



PLAIN COFFERS 123 

of England's kings, is little known, and access is even now jealously guarded. The 
building itself dates from the time of Edward the Confessor, and it is an unquestioned 
fact that from an early period in the Conqueror's reign till two hundred and thirty 
years later, it was used as a depository for the wealth of our sovereigns. At the 
beginning of the fourteenth century, however, while " Edward the Lion " was busy 




TREASURE COFFER IN THE PYX CHAPEL, WESTMINSTER 
Said to have belonged to Edward III. 

hammering the Scots, a strange and mysterious robbery caused the translation of the 
royal treasury to a more secure place. One hundred thousand pounds in English 
money alone is said to have disappeared, besides jewellery and plate, the thieves 
cunningly avoiding appropriation of the regalia and other equally incriminating 
objects. The theft to this day remains a mystery, but suspicion at the time pointed 
strongly to the monks, and the Abbot, Walter de Wenlok, and forty-eight of the 
Brethren were promptly sent to the Tower. Chroniclers differ as to the immediate 
result of the trial, or indeed as to whether one ever took place. It appears, however, 
that two years afterwards the King, who had come to Westminster to return thanks 
lor his triumph over the Scots, ordered that those who still remained in prison 
should be released. From that day forth the Pyx Chapel was applied to other 
purposes. It indeed for some time contained the regalia, but was mainly used as a 
storehouse for relics and disused lumber, to be opened officially at quinquennial 
intervals for the ceremony of testing the national coin, known as the " Trial of the 
Pyx." 

The audacious breach of law which has just been mentioned is known even now 
by the name of the "Great Robbery." The chests which contained the treasure 
are said to have been broken asunder by force, and if this was the case, fresh 
receptacles would be provided to replace those that had been wrecked. Far from 
being the coffers which figured in this affair, these can hardly have been made 
for some considerable time after. Details are scanty, but the outline of one is 
suggestive of a build which was frequently used in the manufacture of certain 
diminutive caskets covered with cuir-bouilli during the fifteenth century, and it 
probably belongs to that date. The other box, which is vaguely reputed to have 



124 



ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 



been the travelling-coffer of Edward III., has a dome or barrel lid, which, with 
the fashion of its hasps, seems to place it in the sixteenth century. It is fitted 
with triangular handles on back and front, and at the ends are rings depending 
from movable bars. When required for purposes of transport, a pole would be 
passed through these rings and the coffer would be slung across the backs of 
two mules. This attachment is really an early feature, and may be seen on an 
undoubted thirteenth-century coffer in the museum at Ypres. There is another 
feature in the Pyx coffer which should not pass unnoticed. The piece was originally 



.Jg5£ 



^.■Vas, 




v\ \\*< 



CASKET COVERED WITH " CUIR-BOUILLI " 



Stamped with shields of spread-eagles and lozenges with the arms of Castille, bound with iron clamps 

German, fifteenth century 
Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington 



supported on bent-iron feet, splaying outwards, of which the two at the back still 
remain. This detail is probably unique (see note 41). 

An inventory of the effects in the Tower Arsenal, drawn up during the reign 
of Henry VI., mentions that some "old great coffers bound with iron and lacking 
keys were cast out of an old house in the Tower because they would serve 
for nothing." 

The fifteenth -century carved cupboard known as "Sudbury's Hutch," at Louth, 
Lincolnshire, has been already described. At the same place is an iron-bound Peter's 
Pence box, which has for its base a solid block of oak of immense thickness. This 
part was formerly buried in the earthen floor, thus rendering the coffer immovable. 
The box, which is closely interlaced with iron straps, does not appear to be older 
than the sixteenth century. 

At Cley-next-the-Sea, in Norfolk, is a curious hutch which goes by the name 




COFFER IN THE CASTLE BUTTERY, DURHAM 

Temp Henry VI 1 1 

Lenglh, 7 ft. 10 in. Extreme Height, 2 ft. 5'. in. Width, 1 ft. 11 in. 

Constructed of wood 3A inches thick 




THE STRONG CHEST." CLAY-NEXT-THE-SEA CHURCH, NORFOLK 



PLAIN COFFERS 



125 



of the " Strong Chest." The doors are square and of solid oak, about three 
inches thick, and the whole structure is bound with iron studded bands. The 
"Strong Chest" is in the parvise over 
the south porch of the church, where it 
must have been constructed, or it could 
not occupy its present situation. This is 
one of the very few certain instances 
known of a receptacle retaining the posi- 
tion for which it was made some centuries 
back. 




FrT'l Tyc 



SIDE VIEW OF THIRTEENTH-CENTURY COFFER 
IN YPRES MUSEUM 
Showing rings for transport 



In closing this work we cannot refrain 
from expressing an earnest wish that it 
may in some way assist towards the pre- 
servation and proper recognition of the 
irreplaceable value of many examples of 
mediaeval work, which, in spite of civil 
war and ignorant vandalism, have tided 
over centuries, only to be treated by their 
proper custodians in our day with some- 
thing worse than neglect. The true 
connoisseur is pleased to know that 
facilities for what is practically Church robbery are not what they were some few 
years ago ; but still there too often remains among those who ought to be the most 
zealous guardians of such treasures an apathy concerning their treatment which is 
deplorable. Suffolk owns a notable fourteenth-century coffer which is degraded into 
a receptacle for paint-pots. Kent possesses a tilting coffer — one of the rarest forms 
of decoration — which is exposed recklessly to the alternate extremes of dry heat and 
damp. One of our finest examples of thirteenth-century art, in Surrey, some five 
years since, had its fitting lid-flange broken off and thrown inside. A few minutes' 
work would have sufficed to repair the breakage, and to this the writer twice drew 
attention. Eighteen months ago it still remained in the same condition, and the part 
will probably in time be mislaid and vanish. The relation of similar instances could 
be multiplied. It is the mission of antiquaries, artists, and lovers of art, to call 
attention to facts such as these, for their persistent continuance must inevitably result 
in the disappearance of national memorials which modern ingenuity can never replace. 



NOTES 



Note i (p. 2). — No. 733, Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, an oak coffer bound with 
iron scroll-work, and having its base shaped in the form of an Early English flat-topped door-head. The 
ironwork in its character greatly resembles the Norman door-hinges formerly a feature at St. Albans Abbey 
Church. This piece was included in a collection of mediaeval oak originally formed by M. Peyre, a 
well-known French collector. The South Kensington Museum authorities endeavoured many years back 
to purchase this collection, but without success. It was, however, finally acquired in 1895, an d since then 
has been partly distributed in various parts of the kingdom. It is not at all improbable that this and 
other debatable specimens belonging to the collection are actually of English origin, as M. Peyre is known 
to have followed his pursuit in England for some time, though no evidence of his purchases is believed 
to exist. 

Note 2 (p. 2). — A contemporary appellation for the floor-space below the dais was the " marsh " of the 
hall. This state of things was the origin of the foot-bar being placed beneath tables. 

Note 3 (p. 2). — 1. Beket, a.d. 1300. 1925. 2. Baret, a.d. 1598. Theor Warres. 

Note 4 (p. 5). — British Museum, Harleian Collection. 

Note 5 (p. 10). — From the Treasury of which the casket probably came. 

Note 6 (p. 10). — Old Northern Runic Monuments, by George Stephens, f.s.a. 

Note 7 (p. 14). — This is merely conjecture, from want of specimens. 

Note 8 (p. 25). — Cluny Museum, No. 1,324. 

Note 9 (p. 39). — This change is believed to have been completed about the accession of Richard II., 
1377, and owing to the slowness of imitative wood-carving, those chests which have perpendicular insertions, 
however slight, in their tracery can hardly be earlier than this date. 

Note 10 (p. 40). — This chest is mentioned in the Inventory of Goods and Ornaments at Faversham 
Church, taken in a.d. 15 12. It has often since been described, wrongly, as of Flamboyant work. 

Note 11 (p. 51). — Such pieces are additionally valuable and interesting from the fact that their correct 
date can often be nearly ascertained by the clothing and equipment of the figures on them. Wood carvers 
might imitate the tracery of the preceding style, but the representation of costume never lied. 

Note 12 (p. 52). — " Dagging." A vandyked border that was sometimes fashioned into the shape of oak 
leaves, letters, and other fantastic devices. The fashion arose in England during the reign of Richard II., 
and, in spite of the statutes subsequently promulgated by Henry IV. for its suppression, continued in 
popularity well into the fifteenth century. Some statues at the Castle of Pierrefonds, in France, executed 
in 1386, show the pitch to which the custom attained in that country. 

Note 13 (p. 52). — It was then that the King honoured William de Selby with the title of Lord Mayor, 
which has ever since been retained by his successors. 

Note 14 (p. 55). — The two examples are so singularly alike in this feature as to suggest the idea that 
the walled city was a representation of some actual place. Owing to the reversal of the design, the town 
which appears on the right of the Kensington piece is in the York coffer depicted on the left. 

126 



NOTES 127 

Note 15 (p. 56).— In an article on this coffer in the Archaologia Cantana, by Mr. W. A. Scott Robertson, 
this chest is attributed to Germany or the Low Countries, from the peculiar tilting saddles which the knights 
use. Mr. Robertson, however, admits that such saddles were used in England. See representation of a 
tournament held before Richard II. at Smithfield, depicted in the Chronicle of St. Albans, Lambeth Palace 
Collection. 

Note 16 (p. 56). — See Note 1. 

Note 17 (p. 60). — See the picture of St. George and the Dragon, by Tintoretto, in the National Gallery. 

Note 18 (p. 60). — The male figure on the left-hand upright wears an interesting specimen of the gipcire, 
or purse of the period. 

Note 19 (p. 60). — The sculptured effigy of Sir Hugh Calverley in Bunbury Church, Cheshire, presents 
an analogy to the equipment of St. George on the Ypres coffer. 

Note 20 (p. 63). — Froissart. 

Note 21 (p. 68). — Surtees. 

Note 22 (p. 69). — Surtees. 

Note 23 (p. 70). — No. 36, 1887. Given by Starkie Gardner, Esq. 

Note 24 (p. 72). — Statutes, first of Richard III., 1483. 

Note 25 (p. 72). — The church screen at Monniekedam has a decidedly German stamp about it. It dates 
from the second quarter of the sixteenth century. 

Note 26 (p. 79). — A fine Spanish chest, of late fifteenth-century work, is loaned to the South Kensington 
Museum by Mr. Mark, sometime British Consul at Majorca, from whence it was procured. 

Note 27 (p. 84). — A local legend, which is wanting in support, asserts that the expression "Under the 
Rose " originated in Coventry, where secret meetings of both factions were held as the struggle fluctuated, 
secrecy being enjoined by a large painting or boss representing the party rose which was placed on the ceiling. 

Note 28 (p. 84). — In all representations where the figures are crowned the nimbus is omitted. Dugdale 
says that he supposes St. Mary's Hall to have been erected about the beginning of Henry VI. 's reign. No 
actual evidence of this, however, exists. 

Note 29 (p. 91). — Feoffees' Account Book, 1576-1798. 

Note 30 (p. 92). — It seems that badges were sometimes placed on shields, e.g. the second seal of 
Henry IV., 141 1, which has three ostrich feathers on one of the shields depicted, and the tomb of Edward 
the Black Prince at Canterbury, which has the same device alternating with the Arms of England. The 
Rev. J. E. Cussans, in his Handbook of Heraldry, published in 1869, says that it was the custom for knights 
at tournaments to display two shields, one with arms and one with badge, and that challengers touching the 
latter were understood to wish to fight with the arms of courtesy only. 

Note 31 (p. 104). — Dugdale's Monasticon. 

Note 32 (p. 112). — Pietro Torregiano, the author of the tomb of Henry VII. at Westminster Abbey, was 
one of the few sculptors who represented the garments of recumbent effigies in the natural folds produced by 
the horizontal position. This is specially noticeable in the figure referred to. 

Note 33 (p. 113). — A house near St. Aignan's Church at Orleans, which was both built and inhabited by 
Louis XL, used formerly to contain some good specimens of linen panelling. The house has recently 
undergone considerable restoration and is now to let. I am unable to say whether the panelling still remains 
there. 

The illustration mentioned is in the portion which exists in the Bibliotheque, Paris. Our British 
Museum portion contains a very interesting picture — Jehan de Varrenes preaching from a pulpit which is 
panelled with linen-fold. A pulpit similar to this exists in one of the side chapels of King's College, 
Cambridge. 

Note 34 (p. 113). — A translation by Gouart de Moulins of the Historia Scolastica of Pieter Commestor. 
The Hotel de Ville at Brussels contains a magnificent Gothic retable, dating from the latter half of the 
fifteenth century. In one of the compartments, which is carved with the Annunciation, a tall, straight-backed 
chair and a bedstead, both panelled in this way, may be seen. 



128 ANCIENT COFFERS AND CUPBOARDS 

Note 35 (p. 114). — Possibly both combined. Early furniture was often made so as to be adaptable. 

Note 36 (p. 114). — A curious instance of partial bordering occurs on the door depicted on page 115. 
The linen-fold, which is of the most beautiful description, is decorated round a portion of the edge only, 
leaving one to suppose that the piece has for some reason or other remained in an unfinished state. This 
cabinet is now in the possession of Edward Barry, Esq., of Ockwells Manor, Berks. 

Note 37 (p. 116). — In the Musee Historique at Orleans is a coffer of early sixteenth-century work and 
singular design, exhibiting arched linen panels under semi-circular canopies. The toile is delicately cut, but 
on the whole the effect is the reverse of beautiful. At Minster Church, in Kent, an aumbry with a similar 
door exists. 

Note 38 (p. 116). — No. 539, 1892. 

Note 39 (p. 118). — The course of the linen-fold decoration appears to be the usual one taken by all 
fashions: (1) Simplicity of design, (2) development, (3) an excess of elaboration, (4) degeneration. 

Note 40 (p. 118). — The reversion to Classic taste having caused it to assume an indistinct and bastard 
resemblance to the Doric triglyph, for which it might be mistaken by a superficial observer. 

Note 41 (p. 124). — Most of these early crypts were flooded at intervals. This may account for the 
elevation of the coffer, which was probably made for the place. 



PLYMOUTH 
WILLIAM BRENDON AND SON, PRINTERS 



G l5lL R B lg*?CH INSTITUTE 




h 3 3125 01320 01 




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